From Bob's desk
Hello out there again to all my readers and friends in cyberspace. It’s been a fair while since I updated my website. But I’ve got a good reason for it. I know at the end of my last update I said my next one wouldn’t be such a big whinge. Well I got some bad news for you. It’s a bigger whinge than ever. And I’ve virtually come back from the dead to have it.
Okay. So after all the shit I’d been through, I finally went back to North Shore Private hospital and got the stoma rejoined. Then after another week of no sleep and needles they let me out and once again I could go to the beach or sit on the brascoe and read the paper; like any good, Aussie bloke. It was grouse. This lasted about two months. I was walking, eating okay, getting my strength back and looking forward to starting another book, when I got these burning pains up my khyber worse than ever. I swear, some nights the pain was that bad I cried and prayed for it to stop. But all I could do was crap out these little jelly beans that felt like drops of battery acid. So, back to the Doctor’s to see what’s going on. Frank lined me up for another colonoscopy and my friend Scott’s wife, Trudi, drove me into North Gosford Private.
I can vaguely remember getting changed and laying on the guerney. And that’s it. I woke up five days later in the intensive care ward at Gosford Hospital and after being in an induced coma and on dialysis. What happened? After Trudi brought be home, my bowel split and my blood filled full of crap. Septicemia again. Only a deadly, king size dose this time. Trudi found me on the floor and rang 000. The ambos filled me choc’o block with morphine and whatever, and raced me into hospital where a surgeon cut me open, got all the crap out of my blood, cut another great hunk out of my bowel and put me on dialysis because my kidneys and the rest of my body started shutting down.
The stinken, rotten cancer had come back and I was dying. The nurses told me so. Frank said the same and when the surgeon, Dr. Wong called in, he held his index finger about half an inch from his thumb and said that’s how close I came to dying. Which was when I must have had my NDE. Near Death Experience. True. I could see myself floating on my back, sinking down in a murky, brown lake about three metres beneath the surface. My right arm was raised and I could see the weed and algae in the lake and the sun reflecting on the surface. Yet I felt quite pleasant and relaxed. Not at all scared. It was only for a few seconds. But I can still see it now as plain as day and it must have been when I was on the way out. However, one of the nurses, Toni, a good friend of mine said bugger it. He’s my mate and he’s not dying if I’ve got anything to do with it. So she pulled double shifts to keep the chemicals pumping into me and try to keep me alive. Whatever Toni did, God bless her, it worked. Next thing I knew, I’d opened my eyes, there were nurses and doctors all around me and Toni was saying “Bob, it’s Toni. Do you know where you are?”
Know where I was? I didn’t even know what planet I was on. But the nurses and doctors were all happy and after that the nurses hovered around me making sure I didn’t slink back into the lake. So I spent the next four days in intensive care ward hallucinating. I thought I was out on the Sea Shepherd fighting the Japanese whalers. I could hear the whales, I could hear the children crying, I could hear politicians making speeches, waves breaking. It was weird. And standing on either side of my head was a big, white rabbit in a straw boater and a red and white striped vest and a big white mouse wearing a laboratory coat. However when I’d start talking to them they walk away but as they’d walk off, they’d shrink and disappear into a little hole in the wall on the other side of the room. It was like Alice in Wonderland. Eventually they moved me to another ward downstairs and this time I could swear the place was being shelled by artillery and everything I looked at turned into a face or a person.
They moved me to another ward where these really nice and patient physiotherapists came to take me for a walk on a forearm walking frame. However, I couldn’t stand up. They got me out of bed and I bloody near shit myself. I had never self so weak in my life. I honestly begged them not to let me go. But they were terrific and I did a blistering twenty five metre walk before collapsing back into bed in a moaning, gasping heap. After that it was more physio, needles, blood tests prodding and probing and after three weeks they said I could leave. My friend Trudi came and got me and brother it was good to be home. And that’s great. The follow up service was pretty good too. I had district nurses coming round to shower me and take me for a walk on my zimmer and I started to get a little more strength back. I had to get something back. I’d lost twenty eight kilos. A lot of it muscle mass and I looked like a baked rabbit. But when I felt strong enough I got my friend Lisa to take me back to the hospital where I gave the nurses a few boxes of chocolates and things and thanked them for their efforts. They verified just how close I came to dying and I was a lucky man. Then it was time to start chemo and radiotherapy. I don’t even want to talk about this. It’s bloody horrible. Plus it costs an arm and a leg even if you’re insured up to the hilt. You feel sick and weak as piss and the radiation therapy burns the shit out of you. All I could do was watch DVDs wearing another catheter and a stoma and mope around trying not to fall arse over head because the chemo and radio buggers up your sense of balance along with your memory. At one stage, I was wishing they’d left me floating down in the lake. At least it was peaceful and there was no pain. Then in the middle of all this my life fell on its arse again. My poor old Mum died in the nursing home aged ninety-two.
I know I’ve said a few disparaging things about my late mother. But she was horrible to me and would do anything to spite me. I’d drive from Terrigal to Maroubra with a box of cakes and my cheque book and the first thing she’d say when she opened the door was wipe your feet. Even when I used to go and see her in the nursing home she’d start a fight. It all goes back to my abusive father who died when I was seventeen. But when I got cancer, especially the second bout and I couldn’t drive over and see her as much, she started to realise I wasn’t such a bad son after all. I was all she had and I wasn’t immortal. Plus I accomplished something she could be proud of. And for the first time I can remember she told me she loved me and I told her I’d always loved her no matter what. It was beautiful. But it was too late. Just as things between us healed up I got a phone call on Monday afternoon from a nurse who works part time at the nursing home to go and see mum: she was nearing the end. So I went straight over to the home to find the poor old thing in her death rattles. I was totally grief stricken. I held her skinny hand and stayed with her for as long as I could and I’m pretty certain she knew I was there. Then I went home and cried my eyes out all night. It’s been two months since she died and the tears have started flowing again while I’m writing this. You sure never miss that water till the well runs dry. Lisa arranged for her to get the last rites that evening then the nursing home rang me on Tuesday morning at nine’ o’clock to say she’d passed away. We went over to clean out mum’s room and see her for the last time then we had the service on Thursday and had her cremated. When I got her ashes we took them down to Sydney and scattered them in the ocean at South Maroubra, across from the townhouse where she spent the happiest years of her life. God love you Marguerite Therese. Rest in Peace.
So that’s pretty much why I haven’t written any books for a while. I honestly haven’t had it in me. But I’m a tough old bastard and with a bit of luck I’ll get on top of this rotten “Bengal Lancer” and start another one. I’ve got the idea in my head. All I have to do is sort out the research and get into it. In the meantime, life goes on and I want to thank all those people who sent me cards and letters hoping I’d get better. I don’t know about other writers in Australia. But I’ve definitely got the greatest and grousest.
They even come up to me in the street on in the mall and wish me all the best. If that doesn’t cheer you up, nothing will. I put a few photos of the funeral and scattering mum’s ashes in with this and on a brighter note I finally found that photo those diggers in Iraq sent me of the new Stealth X-250 Attack Helicopter the Australian Military is deploying shortly. I know I’m going to get in all kinds of shit giving away military secrets. But I just had to show you the fighting calibre of our soldiers and the equipment they’ve got. Fair dinkum. If the Taliban or Al Qaeda want to take on our fully armed up diggers, they’ve got rocks in their heads. Our soldiers would smash them with just their good old, Aussie sense of humour alone. I love our diggers, both men and women. And even though I’m not all that rapt in the war they’ve been sent to fight, I’m behind them one hundred percent as we all should be. I’ll just give you an idea of what they go through. I went out to see the district nurse the other week to get my catheter changed and I was having a whinge about the thing. I was wearing a cap a digger sent me from Afghanistan, which I’ve hardly ever got off my big boofhead. We started talking about the war and I mentioned how the media say we’ve only lost twenty or so soldiers in Afghanistan plus so many wounded. But they never mention what the wounds are. The nurse agreed and told me she’d been treating a young wounded soldier back from the war. He’d lost both legs below the knee, his right arm just below the shoulder and his left arm below the elbow from an IED. Can you imagine that? I told the nurse that if I ever I came over again and started winging about my catheter to boot me fair up the arse. Talking about catheters. I’ve also enclosed a photo of me leaving Gosford Private Hospital with a new type of catheter I have to wear. It’s an absolute bastard in supermarkets or at the movies. You’ll also notice how much weight I’ve lost and what the radiotherapy has done to my skin. But like I said, things could be a lot worse. And surprisingly I just had a good result from a PET scan. Well that’s about it for now.
I’ve got to start some more chemotheraphy and needles. But with a bit of luck I’ll have another book out in November 2011. I hope so. I have to eat. Thanks again to all those people who wished me well and I’ll have another yarn to you when I next update my website. I might even tell you about the three visits I got from Mum’s spirit after she passed on. It’s real Twilight Zone stuff and makes you wonder what’s going on out there. Plus the almost ‘mini-miracle’ the church benefited from through mum’s passing away. It was beautiful and almost blew Father Dominic’s socks off.
See you then and thanks for buying my books.
You’re the best.
Robert G. Barett.