Here & Now with S Sorrensen - Oct 22
Ow! That stings. Ow, ow, ow, ow!
Surely that's all...
Ow!! Good grief.
The injections hurt. So many of them - but then again it would hurt more if the doctor behind me were to start cutting out the skin cancer without them.
I'm lying on my side in only my underpants (freshly washed ones for this gig) as the doctor injects anaesthetic into my back around a small blemish. It must be cut out. Modern medicine, for all its hype, is not subtle, but then again I doubt a comfrey poultice would do the trick.
I stare out from the operating table as the doctor works behind me. There's a painting of a Spanish dancer on the wall. Swirling dress, arched arms, and a passion for life.
Ow! Another one?!
Despite my having had skin cancers removed before, I feel... emotional today.
The ceiling of the surgery is a plaster one. A leafy vine sculptured in plaster elegantly twines its way around the ceiling's perimeter.
It's upsetting me that my body, of which I've always been fond, is creating cancers. Why?
Okay, being of Viking blood and living a childhood in Queensland where peeling from sunburn was a summer ritual doesn't help. And then, as a young man, wandering the far northern jungles in only a sarong and long hair as protection from the sun wasn't exactly sensible either. (But it was a much-needed therapy.)
These days I avoid the sun. I drive with gardening gloves on. I wear my cowboy hat and long sleeves in Byron, taking off my Cuban heels to walk along the beach.
Some old Lismore ceilings were tin, replete with fancy ornamentation. I used to see these beautifully crafted ceilings insensitively discarded at the dump years ago when old houses were being renovated - tin replaced with plaster; hardwood with chipboard; class with crap.
“Does that feel sharp?” asks the doctor, probing me with a scalpel in the area of the injections. I don't feel any pain.
Last Saturday I had dinner with friends including an old acquaintance, Ben, a filmmaker.
A month ago, while he was in Europe 'developing a project' (that's mostly what filmmakers do), Ben noticed a small mole on his chest... melanoma. (The godfather of skin cancers.)
I can feel the blade cutting into my skin. No pain, just the pressure. I can feel the sawing motion. It makes me nauseous. Reminds me of cutting a roast. I look at the dancer on the wall. I think of Ben.
Before dinner, Ben showed me his chest. (Because I have battled melanoma too.) A long, wavy line of fresh stitches crossed his chest from nipple to nipple. There were two more cuts under his arms where his lymph glands had been removed. Despite that, the doctors don't know if they got it all.
I saw a flash of fear in Ben's eyes as he told me this. But there was something else in those bright eyes. He smiled and poured me a drink. He poured everyone a drink every time their glass neared empty. He listened attentively to the guests as if he cared. Though dinner was a serve-yourself smorgasbord, he took my plate and filled it for me. He radiated love. He was living.
The first stitch is pulled tight. A tear wells in my eye. But it's not pain that forms the tear.
Ben showed me that with the fear comes an understanding. Awareness of your mortality creates compassion. And love.
We're all dying; it's just that some know this, some don't.
And if you don't, you're missing out, you can't dance.