It's a cool and perfect morning when I set off for the Wesley Research Institute. It is with some trepidation that I go as the Institute is based at the Wesley Hospital where George died two months ago.
As I walk through the familiar corridors of the hospital, I imagine George's spirit hovering somewhere. You know he pulled his own suitcase in there when he was admitted - and he never managed to make it out.
Still, I put away these unpleasant thoughts as I follow the signs to the Institute which is located on a basement floor. The receptionist makes a call and I am redirected somewhere to Floor 8 in the East Wing.
I am here today at the invitation of Dr Cameron McDonald who is conducting a study into the effects of Omega 3, exercise and nutrition on women who have completed treatment for breast cancer. It's quite a fluke I'm here and owe it all to another friend of mine, Judy who is a dietitian. Dr McDonald is an associate of hers I believe.
In preparation for this initial assessment, I've had to avoid all exercise for the past 48 hours, something that was probably a godsend as I am still battling a nasty cold. I was also required to note exactly what I consumed for breakfast, avoiding all tea and coffee. (I had 60 g of Sultana Bran with 100 ml of full cream milk in case you are interested).
Aside from that, I've had to present in a swimsuit worn under sports clothes. It's a little tight - actually, I feel like I'm wearing a body condom it's so snug - but I'm wearing my softer temporary prosthesis so at least it's not too uncomfortable across my chest.
When I arrive on the 8th floor I am met by a petite Asian lady call 'Ewie' (I think, 'Funny you're not walking in circles') who introduces herself as an exercise physiologist and leads me through to a narrow room that is bathed, somewhat stereotypically, in a blinding neon light.
After I sign a waiver form, Ewie first makes me-ie stand against a wall to measure my height and, to my dismay, I discover - after all these years - that I am 0.8 cm shorter than I have been led to believe. No, not the majestic, towering, awe inspiring height of 160cm on my driver's licence, but 159.2 cm. Now that means I truly AM a short-arse.
Then she makes me hop on some fairly techno scales and scribbles some numbers on a form. She measures my waist (77 cm) and hips before making me lie down on a bed so she can note any signs of lymphodaema. (Thankfully my right and left side are nice and even).
At this point, I am led to an odd looking contraption at the end of the room. It looks like a large egg the has a certain 'Austin Powers' feel to it. Here is a picture of it.
Ewie gives me a lairy purple swimming cap to put on. I'm directed to stand on a weighing platform and then I have to sit in the egg which I discover is called a 'Bod Pod'. I am told to sit as still as possible, breathing normally as Ewie shuts the door. From the inside, it feels as if I'm driving the Egg, staring out of a big windscreen.
I hear a sound like a garden sprinkler...a regular 'thuck thuck thuck' sound. This happens twice and then I'm done.
Afterwards, Ewie announces that I have 17.5% body fat and am officially 'lean'. Here is the form she filled in:
I am led to an ante room to fill in a questionnaire where I have to really think about my current situation. There are four or five pages of questions such as: "Do you feel like crying?", "Do you feel unmotivated?", "Do you feel tired?", "Do you feel depressed?", "Do you feel pain?"..."Do you think about dying". Mostly I answer "A little bit" but I answer "Extremely" when the questions relate to joint aches and pains.
Before I have a chance to finish the questionnaire, Dr McDonald comes in and I have to say the dirty old woman in me is momentarily excited. He is, to put it mildly, gorgeous. Tanned, blonde and dressed casually in bermuda shorts, Dr McDonald looks like he wouldn't be out of place in a scene from Mills and Boon (although he doesn't have the obligatory 'slate grey eyes' and his name is alas, not 'Raoul'). He looks more surfie than academic. Secretly I think, well, well, well - perhaps this isn't all going to be totally dire after all. Oh, yeah.
We have to return to the basement premises so catch a lift where I have the chance to explain to Cameron the difficulty I've had giving two hoots really about diet (especially) or even fitness. I explain how I was the fittest I've ever been before I got sick and how now I keep thinking "Fuck it, what's the point?" My other Breast Cancer friends of a similar fitness background agree. We feel we've been shortchanged, naturally.
At this point Cam raises an eyebrow and says: "Let me tell you something. All the studies show women who have a good fitness profile do MUCH better, they just have a better chance." He really emphasises the 'much', in case those capitals haven't given you the right picture.
Soon I find myself in another tiny office where Dr McDonald takes my blood pressure - which remains low despite the tantalising proximity of this fine young specimen.
He puts a heart monitor on me and the fact that my resting heart rate is 61 BPM - which just proves one doesn't always hyperventillate when letching.
I do a grip test that, sadly, only involves grabbing a measuring device - and not, perhaps, one of this young man's firm buttocks.
All this filthy daydreaming is soon curtailed as I'm led out of the room and into an adjacent gymnasium which is chockful of equipment. The only person in there is an old gent who is doggedly peddling a stationery bike.
Dr McDonald soon has me on a treadmill where he keeps increasing the intensity of my walk until I reach my target heart rate of 146 BP which is 85% of the maximum heart rate for an old geezer like me. It takes 17 minutes before I get there and I think I'm doing okay, considering my knees are buggered.
When we start, I ask him a few questions about his study. He has 30 subjects but he needs another 40. I want to keep talking but he tells me talking increases the heart rate and may impact the accuracy of the measurements.
I am led back upstairs to complete the rest of my questionnaire where I am also given a device known as an 'accelerometer'. It looks like a tiny headlight which flashes intermittently. I'm to where it in the same position each day for 7 days, 10 hours a day minimum if possible. I also have to roughly report on my general eating habits.
There are three groups in this study, one who will take Omega 3 supplements only, one who will also have an exercise and nutrition program, and a third group who will only have the exercise and nutrition program. Apparently we will be randomly allocated to a group and I do hope I am not in the Supplement Only group as that would be quite boring.
And so I am done for the day. On the way home I pop into a Skate Shop to buy Ben's birthday present.
As soon as I get home, I make a delicious pie for dinner as Ethel is coming over and Al is working in the City.
I go for a 5 km run with Spunky. (The air is bracing and I feel great when I get back).
I change quickly and whip down to the local shops where I'm to be in a photo that will hopefully make the local rag. It's to promote a Cancer fundraiser where I've been invited to speak.
Later, I change into my referee's formal uniform and drive to Mt Gravatt where, in a room bursting with youth and testosterone, I manage to stay awake through a two-hour Youth Coaching night.
It's nearly 10 pm when I get home. The house is quiet. Al, Ben and the dog are all asleep.
It's been an unusual day but before I finish,please let me know if you know of any woman who may have finished her breast cancer treatment within the past 12 months, who lives near Brisbane and who might wish to participate in this study. Oh, and who might, like me, have an eye for a fine specimen of manhood. (BYO tissues).
It only takes a little time and you never know, it may really help her.
Besides, like me, they may find it way of deriving a greater purpose from this ordeal.
That, and an opportunity for some lechery. Remember my motto ladies: "Numquam etiam olio perve".. You're never too old to perve.