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Thursday, December 27, 2012


It's an easy, breezy Thursday morning after the Chrismas festivities and finally, I can feel the pressures and the tensions of the past year subsiding.

To say I feel like that fat man under the Steam Roller is an understatement.

I was telling Fiona recently that throughout this year, I have held an image of myself as a yachtie, steering a teetering boat through a turbulent sea.  It's all about keeping your eye on the horizon, and your hand on the wheel - steady as she goes.

By the time December came, I have to say my boat was pretty much limping.  I have struggled to catch the wind and, despite some fairly strong legs, haven't really put in a Cup-winning performance.

Now the weather has calmed and I feel as if I may have reached port.  How long I can stay here, I do not know.  I'm just planning to make the most of it.

I am looking forward to two-weeks of sitting on my now biggish arse, preferably reading.

Ben left for New Zealand yesterday as part of a two-week tennis tour.   Harry has been out most days, either mooching with his girlfriend or selling robotic toys at a shopping Plaza near Ipswich where he's been learning the dark arts of selling from the grandmeister himself, Craig.  (No, seriously, that man is GOOD!).

Today Al has gone down the Coast to play golf with his mates, returning tomorrow.

So me and my dog, Spunky, are now alone, he content to rest his chin upon the floor and me?  Well, here I am at the keyboard, contemplating the year that now foxtrots those last steps in its dying dance, the rest of us holding our breaths until its final bow on New Year's Eve.

What a year it has been.

Looking back, I can barely believe I have managed to get here more or less in tact - one breast, quite a few brain cells and a few litres of oestrogen short.

This year I  survived four shots of chemotherapy, 30 shots of radiation,  two funerals, and another cancer diagnosis in the family.

I've spent countless hours in the waiting rooms of breast surgeons, oncologists, hospital wards, surgical and oncology units, bloody collection centres, radiology labs, counsellors and plastic surgeons.

But along the way there have been some celebrations too.

After my last radiation shot in April, there was the family's memorable trip to Kangaroo Island in South Australia, followed by Karen's election victory to reward more than two years of my blood, sweat and tears.

In May, there was the Kokoda Challenge with Louisa,  in July, my sister's 50th birthday celebration, in August, a big party for 90+ people.

I think that's the month Al went to Thailand to play golf with his mates, too.

In September we received news of Fiona's cancer diagnosis.

In October, Lee and I left for our four-week trip to India, Nepal and Bhutan before I returned in November to settle down to five weeks hard but rewarding and exciting labour as part of my work while Al and the boys pinged off to Bali for an 8-day break.

And in November, Fiona started chemotherapy.  I have attached a photo below of she, me and Nicky taken on Christmas Day.  (It's not a great one but it's the only one I have).

You can see that Fiona is rocking the bald and I think she looks bloody great!  She's been handling the chemotherapy remarkably well, even better than I did, I reckon!

And at last, in December, the piece de resistance, just last week, when we had the great news that Al had won a car and some spending money in an art union.

We were able to distribute some of his booty among the family at Christmas,  our (apparent) generosity so astounding my mum that she burst into tears.    It's funny, because I really thought she would have been more inclined to burst into tears at the outfit I gave her - picked up for $7.50 from St Vinnies (because we had an Op Shop theme this year).  Those more ungenerous may say that the dress I chose was so hideous it would make anyone cry.

Much as I despise cliches, it has been, in short, a roller coaster - if not a Giant Drop - of a year and, if there is one thing the past 365 days have taught me it is that among the terrors, joy can be found.   Even among the struggle, can be celebration (if not celibacy, cough cough).

Now, looking back at the year that was, I have concluded that in fact, life itself is the ultimate thrillseeker's adventure.

Who needs base jumping or abseiling when you have this amazing, unpredictable,  hairy-scary thing that's simply, well, Monday (or maybe Tuesday).

Today, tomorrow, they are nothing if not terrifying.  So what are you going to do.  Tiptoe gingerly to the precipice and swoon?

Against all Mayan and other predictions, we have all lived to see another day and 2013 is  preparing to spread its wings.

Now don't be an idiot  and take it for granted.

I have my goggles on, my parachute ready and my compass, map and ration pack all set to go.

Chocolates, schmockolates, Forrest Gump!   Life is not some pathetic forage inside a box of Quality Street.

It's a jungle.  It's a minefield. It's Unchartered Territory.

Shit mate, it's not cancer that's 'not for sissies'.  It's Life!

So I urge you to take precautions.  Consult Bear Grilles, the Pope, or even Bert Newton, if you must but don't be like that fool, Hardy.   Expect the unexpected and be prepared.

You have no choice because Life is only ever a risk.  All you can do is stay alert and do what you can to survive should you anticipate the attack of zombies from outer space, Armageddon, the end of the Twilight saga, the final episode of 'The Real Housewives of New York' and other diabolical events.  Take whatever precautions you feel you need to.

Look after yourself.  Stay positive.  Wear a condom. Ask Mr Google.

There are a thousand pieces of useless advice I could give you - or you could ask your Mother for - but my point is that life is an adventure.

It is unpredictable, yes.  But it's also exciting!  Enlivening!  Engaging!  Invigorating!  (But not as invigorating as, say, a romp in the hay with George Clooney - in that G-String!)... (Al, I am only kidding!).

And with that attitude, I reckon that if/when you come to that ineluctable precipice, you will not retreat. You will not be frightened or upset.  You will not behave like I usually do when confronted with the sight of a large rat, or for that matter, the misuse of the word 'mortified' (I'll say this once, puh-leeeeese it means "embarrassed," people) or - truly teeth pulling stuff - the mispronunciation of the word 'Mischievous'.

Check your radio comms, put on those goggles, prime up that parachute, scream GERONIMO at the top of your lungs...  and jump for god's sake.

Trust me.  You'll be fine.