David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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I am lying on a small table in a tiny room, dizzy with nausea and apprehension. A young woman busies herself with the preparations of a plaster mold that will be used to position my arm and chest for the twenty five ‘shots’ of radiotherapy that I will undergo during the ensuing five weeks. I had called the hospital that morning to say that I was too sick to come for this appointment. I had better come, said a young man from the department, because if I missed this appointment I would I might not get a new appointment in time start the treatments within the recommended time frame. So I am here, on the table. I mention the nausea to the technician. My apprehension at this moment is that I might become so dizzy as to somehow swirl out of control. The young woman gives me a mask to blunt the smell of the plaster. The procedure will take twenty-five minutes. I keep my mind focused on each breath and get through the ordeal breath by breath. She seems, in contrast to me, gloriously free of distress and worry, listening to the radio while she works. I envy her good fortune. As we finish up the procedure I take a chance and share my experience: I say that being a cancer patient can be tricky because you are sometimes utterly in the grip of the idea that the cancer will spread and you’ll die soon and in a very unpleasant way. After each round of chemo I was admitted to hospital for extreme nausea and dehydration. During those days in the cancer ward some of those who were dying called out and moaned distressingly, sometimes for hours, during the night. I was, at those moments, unable to shake off the belief that I too would be in that state within a few months. The signs of cancer had been missed on the mammogram two years earlier and, when the lump made itself evident, I was in Stage III. When I mentioned this experience of being gripped by the idea of death she said “Oh I know exactly what you mean, my mother has breast cancer, and every time she has an examination I go searching the internet to find out what I can.” This young woman was twenty four, and I fifty six at the time, and she had given me an unexpected small precious gift that I took with me out of that little cupboard of a room..
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