peter A cross

ramblings from a troubled mind

Archive for the ‘cancer’ Category

Four a.m.

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Long, creased grey down turned sneer mouth tries to escape to
unshaven pock-marked neck.
Smell of piss.
Eyes turn back, stare back
glare back searching, demanding, commanding release.
Light reflects dull unblinking stained, pained, tobacco yellow, whiskey brown, vomit green.
porcelain white, Ajax white, sparkling white, so white you could fucking eat off it
white turns yellow.

Flower dried, a blight bleak landscape.
No escape.
Paint peels from wood cured in rain battered, wind scattered, shit spattered box.
Look beneath dig deeper, darker.
Watch the poison spread, veins pumping, reaching arching out
clasping, grasping, growing, growling spotted
arguing with the age rotted canvas leather tanned skin.

Is this the best, is this your challenge?
you fuck me because I fucked?


Written by peteracross

July 6, 2011 at 16:41

Posted in cancer

Out out damned spot… and stay out

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2 February 2010  

For the first time in almost five months I had a beer and ate a little amount of real food today. It’s such a strange feeling after being fed by tube for so long to swallow even a small amount of food. To actually start to use a knife and fork again, strange objects that ‘don’t sit well’ in my hand… I feel human.  

So as you may have guessed by the opening lines ‘the treatment’ has finished. I’ve been radiated, chemo’ed and antibiotic-ted to within an inch of my… life  

In my mind they were bigger

Six weeks of radiotherapy have really flown by. Every week day Richard and occasionally Hugo have driven me out to Prince of Wales and waited patiently while I lay on the slab and have unseen beams focused on various parts of ‘me bum’. As treatment progressed the area took on the feeling of a summery tan until, in the last week, it started to burn and melt. But like a good chap I kept the area well basted with Sorbeline and already, seven days later, I’m starting to feel the benefits of greasing up as the old skin flakes off and new unblemished skin is revealed, (not that I’m able to see it of course). Really this has been the longest ‘Brazilian’ in history.  

For the first time in weeks I was able to wear proper underpants, even if only for a couple of hours. I feel my dependence on ‘Depends’ diminishing.  

I weigh in at a staggering 61 kilos, that will change – slowly.  

My next big challenge, well for me it is, is to rejoin the outside world. I have been closeted away in this house or that hospital for such a long time that I have become mentally trapped; unwilling, mostly because of ego, to expose myself to the public.  

However it is time to get back out into the real world and re-establish some form of ‘life’ again. And to reconnect with friends and cafés that I have missed.  

So for those of you who have followed me through this little adventure, hasn’t it been a fun ride. The good news is that I can go back to writing about other stuff now, if I can remember how to do it, the bad news is that I will have to go back to writing about other stuff now.  

It isn’t as if I haven’t been just sitting around feeling sorry for myself I’ve still been keeping fingers in various pies with a few funding applications floating around for a short film or two.  

I know I am still no where near a hundred percent again and sure there will still be follow ups and check ups, not to forget a lot of time still to be spent in the dentist’s chair restoring my pearly whites, the few that are left, but as Maime says to Agnes Gooch, “Yes! Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”  

So now I guess I have to ask was this whole process of writing about ‘me tumours’ really worthwhile. Well it certainly kept me focused and did help me look at the whole experience from a different perspective.  

Has it diminished any anger and resentment that I felt? You may have to ask Richard that one. I don’t remember losing my temper more than a couple of times mostly from frustration. So I guess all things considered, yes it was helpful.  

Did I reveal much of myself? Probably not, the diary became a sort of ‘and then I did this and had this done’ piece. After a while the humour seemed a little forced and the act of actually writing about the process became less interesting for me, god only knows what you lot tought.  

Would I do it again? God I hope I don’t have to, I think four cancerous tumours in six years are more than enough for one life time, thank you very much.  

I have met some really lovely people during the months of treatment, mostly nurses, who have gone out of their way to make things easy for me. Joyce has been a star and the nurses at the Oncology Centre at the Prince of Wales are a dream. Even the Radiology crew were kind and considerate this time and they never rolled their eyes each time I asked for an extra pillow for my head or a ‘bluey’ for me bum or even a little blanket to cover my chicken legs. I owe all of them a huge thank you.  

However the one person who has had to live with this day in and day out, aside from me, has of course been Richard, he has without complaint taken time off during his work day to drive me there and back, sometimes twice a day. He has gone on shopping expeditions to find my favoured brand of Depends, he has never complained when I have asked for yet more and softer toilet paper or rejected Scwheppes Lemonade and demanded Sprite. He has dealt with all the doctors and nurses with (mostly) good humour and has never once said “Oh that’s not good”, no matter how many times he may have thought it. But most importantly he has kept the cups of tea flowing, every morning and every evening.  

So thank you Richard very much I only hope I never have to do it for you, if you know what I mean.

Written by peteracross

February 4, 2010 at 16:41

Vale Paul MacFarlane

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It’s sad when a generation starts to come to an end; especially a generation that fought for its very survival through the eighties.

Most people go through their lives making friends forming attachments and generally never having to deal with the loss of loved ones until their latter years.

Paul Mac (centre)

Then there are those of us who came of age in the early eighties and nineties who dealt everyday with the passing of friends and lovers from a disease that was caused by the simple act of making love or having sex.

We watched as our lovers and friends succumbed to one of the most heartless of diseases. Each week newspapers were filled with the names of those who had died. Most taken in their prime.

Then in the mid to late nineties there were glimpses of hope as drugs and treatment regimes were developed that slowed and controlled the progression of the disease. We began to relax and once again to enjoy and celebrate what remained of our youth.

Our years of grieving were we thought over.

Most of us experienced a decade of relative peace but now as we end the first decade of this new millennium once more those of us in that certain age group are starting to again experience the grief and loss of friends dying.

This time it’s from cancer, drug abuse and violent attack. So once again we are learning to grieve.

Too soon.

This week Sydney lost one of its favourite sons when Paul Macfarlane passed away surrounded by his family in Queensland.

Paul was, when I first met him, a waiter at Capriccios on Oxford St. in his early twenties and naive. He was a good looking boy; bubbly, bright, mischievous and full of joy.

After Caps Paul started work as a Barman at The Exchange until one night the manager threw him into the DJ box and Paul was reborn as one of Sydney’s premiere DJs. There was not a venue or event that Paul did play.

Paul became an identity on our Golden Mile.

Paul who never smoked in his life ironically died of cancer.

Written by peteracross

December 21, 2009 at 16:41

Posted in cancer

Tagged with , , ,

I knew all along she was a toxic ol’ queen

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The first week of Chemo and Radio are ‘dun and dusted.’ Was it bad, hard, a struggle?        

Nup, not really, but the first week never is. All the effects are cumulative so as treatment continues then it’s ‘layer upon layer upon layer’ or as Mrs. Marsh would say, “Just like the liquid gets into the chalk.”        

I know that saying had little to do with what I’m talking about but I was determined to use it.        

I checked in to the P of W about midday on the Monday and pretty much immediately was hooked up to the ‘bag’ and remained so for five days.        

Finally I’m given a window bed. At least if I can’t be outside I can feel slightly more expansive than being surrounded by hospital curtains and snoring, farting old men (yes I’m including myself in that.)        

I was escorted down to Radio late that afternoon by a nurse and wards man. It seems once you’re attached to the 5FU you can’t be trusted out of the ward alone; the chemicals that are being pumped into your veins and ‘body bits’ are so toxic that should they touch anyone who doesn’t have cancer then… well what happens is never really explained.        

drip by drip - well what else can I stare at?

So the rules are: Don’t leave the ward, don’t travel without a spill kit, don’t have sex (yeah right as if that’s going to happen) and, most importantly, make sure that you flush TWICE after you have pee’d.        

Hospital isn’t such a bad place once the staff all get to know your routine and you theirs. My main complaint is the pillows; plastic covered pillows are a pain to sleep on, they hurt my ears and make me sweat.        

I won’t mention the food because these days I am being feed through a tube in me ‘tum tum.’ Efficient but hardly one of the great dining experiences of my life.        

Remember I how I was prattling on a week or so ago about my cystoscopy, well now it gets interesting. At some stage while they were emptying then refilling my bladder some cheeky little bug crept up me ‘willy’ and had itself a partay in me bladder. Easily treated, once discovered, however there was a very peculiar side effect, every time I needed to pee my, for want of a better word, willy,  would fill with blood, just like an erection – only not, and as I was peeing me ‘butt’ would contract and open and contract and open a few times. At first it was rather pleasant, “Hey at my age you get your pleasures where you can.”         

Now as amusing as all this maybe the unexpected consequence, yes there’s always a consequence, was that I would have what is known in the retail industry as a ‘two for.’ The problem was, aside from the eventual pain, that I couldn’t pee unless I was standing up and… well I’m sure you’ve got the picture by now.  If you haven’t leave me a comment and I can explain it graphically, you know I ain’t shy. Finally the results came back from the lab, on the afternoon of my very last day; the bug was identified, the right antibiotics prescribed and all is returning to S.O.P.         

Again I’m so glad to be at home and in my own freshly made bed with soft pillows and sheets with a thread count of more than 25.        

I think the break was good for Richard too, rather than sitting next to me every night as I stare at the TV that I continually have to turn down, when he isn’t watching and he of course sneaks it back up when he thinks I’ve drifted off. He has become, I wouldn’t say deaf but just VERY, VERY hard of hearing.        

I’m home again now until the 14thof January, I think,  then back in for the final week of Chemo. Just Radio every week day now and lucky me some days twice to cover the Christmas and New Years breaks.        

Thank god it’s started… at last… now I just wish it was over already.

Written by peteracross

December 19, 2009 at 16:41

Posted in cancer, Peter Cross

Tagged with , , , ,

We got a gusher… get another bucket!

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Wednesday 9 December 2009 11:45  

I’ve had a couple of colonoscopies in my time and by in large they aren’t entirely unpleasant experiences. The nice nurse prepares you with a ‘sleepy time’ shot that does exactly what it says. So really all that happens is you lie on your side, drift off to a semi sleep while 7 mile of cabling is inserted through your bum and up into your colon.  

Not that bad in the big scheme of things.  

Today I had a ‘Cystoscopy’, a similar kind of thing to a colonoscopy except they go through the front door… your urethra; yes the bit you pee out of in your willy. I wasn’t too concerned I mean if they give you ‘sleepy time’ meds for the bum which is relatively speaking much larger (be kind) then you would expect at the very least to be sound asleep the moment you change into the hospital gown for this invasion.  

Wrong. So wrong, in fact on every level REALLY WRONG.  

The Scope - hardly scary at all really!


A cystoscopy is a little thing where a doctor assisted by a nurse covers your entire body with a green surgical cloth that has a square cut out so they can have your willy on display while they insert a tube up and I mean insert it right up your urethra into your bladder to see if you have any growths, lesions or contraband.  

So I wasn’t too worried for all the previous reasons.  

I’m lying on my back on the slab, thinking I need to pee, my willy exposed while the female doctor (yes the entire team of two was female) busy themselves prepping me.  

I asked, naively, “Will I be out to it while you do this?”  

“Oh no” she said, “We don’t do that. You’ll get a local.”  

I freely admit at this point I tensed, dramatically.  

“A local, are you sure that’s all?” I croaked.  

“Yes, yes don’t worry it will be a little uncomfortable but nothing to worry about.”  

It seems some person who clearly has a fetish for penile insertions has decided that all you need is a little gel to numb the urethra and ‘she’ll be right.’  

This I might add was not my idea of a fun date.  

I felt some small amount of probing going on and actually thought this isn’t too bad and said as much.  

“Oh that’s not it; we’re just washing your ‘area.’ We don’t want any nasty infections to get in there now do we?”  

Get in there! God are they sending in a film crew? Is this going to be Baz Luhrman’s follow up to Australia…? Urethra, the Land Nobody Wanted.  

After about two minutes of scrubbing they decided I was clean enough and they were ready to start with the big guns, the Cystoscope. A cystoscope sounds like something Batman would have on his utility belt.  

“Holy wee wee Batman this looks like a job for the Bat-cystoscope!”  

“Yes Robin my young friend. You hold it up while I go in for a look.”  

I felt a latex gloved hand grab what was left of my shrivelled manhood.  

“Alright now, you just relax.”  

“Are you mad, relax… me… now… how?” I thought.  

“Unclench your bum. That’s it; now this may sting just a little.”  

Well it didn’t sting. Sting is not the word for it. It didn’t hurt but it was a very peculiar feeling as the camera scope started the journey up me ‘bit’ towards my bladder. A bit like… well actually I can’t describe the feeling but it was very peculiar.  

“My, my, my” she said “You’ve got a very full bladder with what looks like dirt in it.”  

Dirt? How the hell would I get dirt into my bladder?  

You get the idea


“I’ll need to drain that all out before I go any further” she said to the nurse hovering next to her, “Get me a catheter.”  

If they had just let me pee before they started.  

The cystoscope was retracted the catheter was inserted. I mean why not… one in all in I suppose.  

As she pressed down on to my stomach she said nervously to the nurse “Better get a bucket. This one is full.”  

With my eyes firmly closed, I tried to hum some nameless show tune while I was drained like a Toyota in for its annual tune up.  

“Quick” she said “I need another bucket.”  

I hummed louder.  

“What a big bladder you have Mr. Cross.”  

“Thank you” I whispered.  

Once the bladder had been drained the camera crew went back in did their business, came out with nothing to report and it was all over reasonably quickly and in the end quite painlessly.  

I was washed, wee’d and wiped down all within three-quarters of an hour.  

She sent me on my way and I was back home by 13:30 just in time for Judge Judy repeats.  

So that was my day… how was yours?

Written by peteracross

December 9, 2009 at 16:41

Pass me the bottle… it’s time

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Wednesday 2 December 2009:  

So my Urologist (not a term I have ever used before) said she could see no lump in me bladder.  

Oh Happy ‘Daze.’  

However she does want to stick a small camera crew up me urethra (yes you read that right) but not until February next year. I guess that makes sense I mean it takes forever to get funding.  

Into the woods of a Romany Autumn


I can’t tell you the relief. The thought of yet ‘more’ tumours, problems and/or issues depresses the sh*t out of me. I mean, really, anymore tumours and I will have to start naming them. Perhaps they will design an ‘app’ for FaceBook and we all could play – a bit like ‘Friends for Sale.’  

I’m excited that at last there seems to be no impediment to actually starting this damn treatment plan.  

If everything was an ‘Indian Summer’ before – this has been a bit of a ‘Romany Autumn.’  

Every second day a very nice young lady from the Community Nursing (CN) department has been coming to see me. This was organised by St Vincent’s and I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a stranger who is seemingly always cheery and smiling come into your life and home, change your dressings, efficiently and professionally, chat for a few minutes, then leave. She is a treat and I’m really grateful for her.  

I’ve also noticed my right hand has started to shed skin, a bit like a snake; I seem to be flaking all over the place. I would be perfect for Hansel and Gretel; they could always find their way home following me.  

Friday 4 December 2009, 09:45:  

My CN has just left.  

I’ve just had a phone call from Joyce at P of W it seems that my Radiologist isn’t satisfied with the results of the CT scan that showed there was nothing in my bladder and he wants to send that film crew up there next week.  

Is he taking the piss out of me!  

My heart sank; I really thought I was free and clear until the 14th, treatment day. The thought of yet another procedure is too depressing  

At least I will be ‘out to it.’  

Don’t worry I will spare you all the pictures. Poor Joyce was so embarrassed when she was explaining it to me; she kept saying, “They won’t let you go home until you go ‘pee-pee’ first.”  

That’s pretty much it for now, I better stop before I start to ramble.  

But just before I go…  

My days are filled with Foxtel and feeding and by feeding I mean pouring cans of food concentrate down a tube into my stomach- fine dining it ain’t. I have however put on a serious two and bit kilos.  

Beauty fades - dumb is forever (J. Judy)


Speaking of Foxtel, I’m a bit over Judge Judy but I am looking forward to the new season of ‘The Dog Whisperer.’  

The highlight of my day is really 9pm when I can crush up two Normies and two Panadol Forte, add water and ingest them through me tube then make my way up to bed and glorious sleep. The Panadol take away the pain and the Normies let me sleep through the night. Stay tuned for my battle with pain killers and sleeping tablets. (Just joking.)  

The only time I wake up is to pee, usually about 02:45, I know it’s bizarre but it is roughly the same time every night. I just reach down beside my bed and grab ‘the bottle’  do what needs to be done, put the screw top lid back on then drift back into the pillow and sleep. It gives me such a lazy feeling of warmth. Everybody should have a bottle by the bed.  

Alright now it’s just getting silly and I can hear Judge Judy telling someone off in the back ground.  

As they say in all the classics, ‘Cop-u-later.’

Written by peteracross

December 4, 2009 at 16:41

I warn you now this isn’t pretty!

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Warning this blog contains pictures  

that may be considered graphic and offensive.  

16 October 2009: 06:15  

Well it’s that morning at last.  

As the sun struggles to raise its head over the horizon I’m in the car being driven from Thomson Street to St.Vincent’s Hospital.  

Naturally I’ve over packed. My suitcase is filled with ‘ward’ appropriate outfits; boxers, white T Shirts, laptops and the like.  

The front doors of the hospital are still locked but a nurse about to start her day lets me in.  

I make my up the escalator to the ‘check in lounge’. The staff are all preoccupied playing Tetris; it’s early for them as well. A few other patients some with family dribble in.  

Finally action stations, a flurry of forms; ‘Sign here, initial here. Follow me through to the pre-op room. Take off your clothes and put them all into this large plastic back, and put on this robe, these underpants, the hat hair net and then onto to the gurney and now just try to relax.’  

 The sun is up.  

I’m visited by a very sweet, attractive Plastic Surgeon registrar (female) who checks where the ’flap’ that will become my hard palate is to come from. She looks concerned then after a phone call decides to leave well enough alone.  

I’m rolled through into another pre-op room. This time one of the anesthesiologists recognises me from the clinic a few days earlier. We chat as he inserts a needle into a vein, smiles all around… it’s too late to back out now… and then it’s good night folks…  

ICU (do u c me?)

While I’m out they remove my upper palate – well most of it and replace with a flap of skin, muscle and a few vital blood vessels from my right arm. (If you’re brave see the picture below – I warn you it’s graphic.)  

I wake up, briefly, twelve hours later on my way to ICU, “You’re doing really well Peter. It went really well.” A phrase I hear repeated many times over the next few days until even I don’t believe it.  

Richard who has been given the task of taking ‘the post op pic’, nervously snaps off two shots in ICU before he scurries away and I sink back into the black abyss.  

Later that same night I’m transferred up to the ward and shuffled from the ICU bed to a Ward bed.  

On the count of three; One, two, three.” I let out a loud groan as I’m slid from bed to bed.  

Squeeze my hands Peter. You’re doing really well.” Strong ethereal, female voices offer me reassurance. I drift back into my nightmare of unconsciousness.  

My dreams are squalid; filled with a sub world where things crawl through mud, slime and crap. No light enters this land. I know I’m ‘out to it’ but even when I think I’m awake I see the dirt and the evil that surrounds me.  

Creatures mutilated by their environment; a cross between Dickensian London, the Matrix and Mordor.  

I’m longing to see some light… some colour… anything vaguely human.  

The flapWhen I finally seem to surface from the ‘pit’, I’m in my bed next to a window looking out over Victoria St., sharing a room with three others: an old jockey (Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup winner) Les, John a man who is actually thinner than me – he is unable to eat does have an extremely attractive son that I grimace at when attempting a seductive smile, and then there’s ‘Frank’.  

Frank is older and one of those people who seem perfectly fine; for some reason he chooses to wear two hospital gowns yet every time he bends over he flashes a set of balls that would make cowboy blush. He collects things like newspaper articles, the bag the cutlery comes in when meals are delivered, polystyrene cups… he is a hoarder, and as it turns out has a foul temper if someone, anyone touches his ‘stuff.’  

I sink slowly back into the morphine morass, back into the world of goblins and deformity.  

The first three days of post operation recovery are a nightmare. All I want to do is sleep; all they want me to do is sit up in a chair and then go for a walk.  

Physios and bed baths… leave me alone you angels of ill-health  

 I can’t speak because of the tube coming out of my neck and there’s another one up my nose and down into my stomach, for feeding – it keeps slipping and irritating me.  

I come up with ideas for new films and television series as I slip between worlds. The one that stands out is the series I called ‘The Aborts’.  

Now in my head, and my defence, this was a fully formed idea when I was self medicating with morphine.  

The Premise:  

A hospital waste management ship is sailing off the coast of America when it is swamped by a rogue wave.   

The ship is overturned and the cargo of unwanted human embryos is swept into the  ocean.   

One container washes up on an isolated uninhabited island.   

The container breaks open and the embryos are thrown into a swamp where they somehow feed and grow to become mutant embryonic, life forms.   

As they grow up each embryo develops a special power. They band together to form a team of avenging foetus’.  

Their aim in life is to fight against stem cell and live embryonic research by large corporate super companies and also reunite with the parents who aborted them.  

There you go, that’s what morphine can do to you.  

I stop morphine after this and refuse all pain medication. I can’t stand the side affects – so I suffer in silence, (mostly).  

Pressure sores are a bi-product of being in hospital especially if you are ‘slim’. I always get one… and always in the same space; just above the ‘bum crack’ at the base of the spine.  

The day Don Lane died was a big day, not just because dear Don died but it was also the day me bowels opened and moved… and moved… and moved.  

Poor Ricardo, the night nurse, hosed me down at least three times that night. From the moment his shift started, my sh*t started. To his credit, in fact to the credit of every nurse who has had to hose me down, they all did it with such kindness and gentleness. At no stage was I ever made to feel wrong. I’m sure I’ve said it before but this part of my ‘diss ease’ is the most humiliating for me. I HATE  it.  

After ten days I’m able to go home – eager to go home – to continue my recovery.  

I’m tired, exhausted and pretty drained emotionally – I mean who wouldn’t be when the hospital doesn’t have cable just the basic commercial TV stations and NO wireless connection.  

So it’s back to my flannelette sheets, warm cups of tea and the oft scorned ‘Arrowroot Biscuit.’  

I have found recovery this time much harder than 2003 but then I am 6 years older and a lot has happened and a lot is still to come.  

That’s enough for now – sorry there aren’t more jokes.  

Before I go the one thing that stands out is that out health care system is in crisis. The nurses always seem to be slightly under staffed, always just one short and their work load is huge. How they get by and maintain a mostly cherry attitude amazes me and makes me feel slightly ashamed every time I sink into ‘poor me’ mode.  

Enough – this is already too long.

Written by peteracross

November 28, 2009 at 16:41