the lottery


Passing a semi on the freeway I couldn’t help but smile at the the familiar blue and red logo on the side.

Is Don is Good.”

Yes, I thought, mentally punching the air.

Yes he is!

Well, perhaps not good in the strictest sense, but fit and pretty hearty all things considered.

After a second favourable report from the oncologist my dear man who goes by the name of Don is starting to feel less apprehensive about the future.

It’s just as his medical point man promised.

We’ll drink a bottle of good red to your good health in about a year,” Professor Peter Disler pledged.

Remarkably, he had called the condition even before the blood work came back.

I think we’re looking at hairy cell leukaemia,” he confided.

Why? we’d asked.

Because you’re a hairy guy,” the Prof laughed before seriously informing us if he was correct my husband had just won the jackpot in the cancer lottery.

Honestly, I remember joking weakly, I think we’d much rather take the cash.

Our introduction to cancer land was an eye opener.

It really is true what they say about no family being untouched.

On our first visit to the oncology unit a dapper bloke in a trilby absorbed in Margaret Atwood’s Blind Assassin sits directly across from an old Englishman who thumbs through a tattered western novella.

Next to him is a middle-aged lady armed with the Len Deighton spy thriller Hope and in the far corner a slim younger man with prematurely grey hair is apparently making steady progress through that philosophical blockbuster The Republic by Plato.

He has accompanied an attractive woman who holds her book down low to her lap so that the title remains maddeningly elusive, but her headscarf and lack of eyebrows convey their own story.

This snapshot of the oncology waiting room shows quite literally that cancer is a disease which does not discriminate.

About one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with some form of cancer before the age of 85.

With more than 300 men, women and children diagnosed with cancer every day it has overtaken heart disease as the country’s number one killer.

Many will not be so lucky in the “cancer lottery”.

It’s almost five years since one of our oldest mates died at just 51.

It has led to something of a ritual for his interstate friends.

Each year we observe the Chinese tradition of QingMing which this year falls on April 5, but for practicable reasons can be celebrated any day from March 21.

The Clear Bright Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day, as it is also known, is a day when people of Chinese descent honour their dead by doing a bit of grave-side house keeping.

Sweeping the graves of Chinese miners interred in different cemeteries across the Victorian goldfields, in absence of their own relatives, might seem an odd way to remember a cricket-loving Pom.

But there’ something strangely comforting in this activity.

We think about the Chinese miners leaving loved ones for the long difficult journey to a strange land.

We think about Dave, embarked on his own voyage to the great beyond.

And, feel certain, that even though the ancestors are no more his than ours, they would welcome the new boy in town, invite him in for some yum cha and make him feel at home.



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