For some time I have been thinking about writing a blog. Somehow it feels like I have to justify this choice because it seems a little self-indulgent. However, I guess it is one way of expressing myself.
Many years ago a friend asked me what I used as ‘an outlet for my creativity’. He was into amateur dramatics and looked a bit baffled when I didn’t have a clear answer. As the mother of 3 kids, though, I never had the energy to seek a creative outlet. They are the ‘fruits of my fanny’ as I like to call them and that’s quite enough creativity right there. I was also working full-time and chauffeuring same fruits around Scotland a lot. I am not really gifted at acting, drawing, painting, singing or any of the other recognised creative activities. I am not a gifted writer either despite being an English teacher but I do enjoy it and I love communicating. So perhaps this blog could be my brand new creative outlet. I can pour my thoughts into it and you can read it if you want to, or not.
In October 2015 I emigrated to Perth in Western Australia to be with my husband Roddy after having been a couple since 2009. It had been a very long long-distance relationship. After 28 years in Scotland, though, I have many friends and relations there so staying in touch was important. Initially I wrote individual emails to people but soon found that I often wrote the same stuff over and over again which was quite tedious so I started writing the much hated round robin emails. Soon I found, though, that some people found those impersonal – understandably so. Others just aren’t the type to write to others or to Skype for that matter. Life is busy as we all know and certain things just fall by the wayside. I get that.
For me, though, the emails I sent were a release and a cry for help, a link to friends back home and the emails I received really helped me cope with the situation that was unfolding here.
The thing for me was that just a few months after our wedding in July 2014, Roddy was diagnosed with melanoma. He was going to go to Macquarie Island for a 6 months stint with the Australian Antarctic Division as the resident radio engineer – something he was so keen to do. As I was still going to be in Scotland for another year it seemed like a great use of his time. The adventure of a lifetime so to speak. Unfortunately, though, the melanoma prevented him from going. It was discovered literally the day before he was going to set sail; his luggage had already been stowed on board the L’Astrolabe and was then removed together with his tiny malignant mole. He had treatment in Hobart, Tasmania and in Perth WA and then came to Scotland.
Soon after my emigration my daughter, Jane, came to Oz to spend a year travelling and my son, Paul, also came out for Christmas 2015. Tina, unfortunately, couldn’t make it as she was tied up at college. Just after Christmas we drove up North in order for Paul to experience the Ozzie outback and see some of the WA delights like Monkey Mia and Coral Bay. Whilst in Coral Bay, camping, we discovered a pea-sized nodule on his arm, very near his original scar. We knew instantly that this was cancerous and by the time we were back in Perth the pea had grown into a chickpea. It was removed together with some lymphnodes and Roddy was found to be a candidate for immunotherapy – Keytruda. At first he had a life-threatening reaction to this, illeitis, which is inflammation of the small intestine. Not good – but he pulled through thanks to some seriously strong steroids. Six months later more lymphnodes were cancerous and the decision was made to remove all those under his left armpit. Since then he has been clear. He is receiving 3 weekly doses of Keytruda and 3 monthly PET scans. The treatment will stop soon and there is hope that it won’t return. We know the statistics, though, and know therefore that time is not necessarily our friend.
Funny how cancer focused the mind.
I was very lucky to find a job as an English teacher here very quickly – a full-time post in one of the most prestigious state schools in Australia. Having had the job and having met some great people helped me to settle here and to feel at home and a part of Australian culture. The job, however, was full on, and I felt swallowed up by it. There were not enough hours left for Roddy and me to spend real time together because I was either at school, marking, planning or tired. So we made a decision: I would not go back in 2017 but instead, we would buy a motorhome and travel around Australia. This is something we had always planned to do but postponed as I needed time to establish myself here – which I have.
Now, we are very lucky – we can do this: we can finance it and we have the skills to earn money as we travel. Australia is a vast and beautiful land. We might be away for 6 months, one year, two years, who knows? All I know is that we want to make the most of the time we have and it’s good to do positive things. I can go for days now, not thinking about cancer and what it might mean and long may this last – I don’t even intend to think about it cause there is no point. Plus we just love an adventure and the freedom of the road and want to suck every atom out of life.