Tags: art, Australia, blogging, camping, cancer, Sir William Dobell
Here is another interesting set of questions from Cee for Week 46 of Share Your World.
On a vacation what you would require in any place that you sleep?
A comfortable bed is essential. I think that if you have somewhere comfy to sleep, you can handle anything else a holiday has to throw at you. But there is one more thing I need – a comfy chair in which to relax, to read, to enjoy a wine at the end of the day.
In our little Toyota HiAce camper, we have a lovely comfortable bed, based on the seat cushions and topped with two layers of foam. That bed stays made up for the duration, and we either do without a table or use the one that attaches outside.
However, our van doesn’t have a comfortable chair, at least not inside. The front seats are separated from the back of the van by the engine housing, and when we stop, any extra bits and pieces are stored on those seats until we set off again. The floor space is small, with no room for a chair. Hubby loves to read or otherwise relax lying down, so he’s fine, but to relax I need to sit. So the only times I can do so in comfort is when the weather is good enough – and the mosquitoes non-existent – to sit in the folding camper chair outside.
Music or silence while working?
I lived out in the back blocks of Central Australia for many years. When you just needed a tape recorder and a few of your favourite tapes, my partner and I used to play music all the time. When we moved back to civilisation, she played music more than I did, but I always had it playing in the background as I did my woodwork in the garage.
Once I began writing my family’s history however, music distracted my thoughts, so I got out of the habit of playing it. Now, years later, in a different state, with a husband who also loves music, we have lots of CDs to play. But we don’t play them! We don’t really know why.
However I think it is time we did something about it. Perhaps I should find out if music will stimulate my creative writing rather than distract me from it.
If you were to move and your home came fully furnished with everything you ever wanted, list at least three things from your old house you wish to retain?
My photo and scrapbook albums, my folders of family history records, my journals, and my computer external drive with all my writing and photographs would have to go with me. I would also want to take the few family keepsakes I have – Mum’s sewing things, her old teapot, her small paintings and shells, and the small tables, wooden bowls and knick-knacks that Dad made. I don’t have Mum and Dad any more, but I want to keep something of them by me.
What’s your least favorite mode of transportation?
I can’t say I have a least favourite. I love to travel, so any way I can do that is good. My most favourite mode is driving myself, always has been. I used to drive 1,700-2,500 km each way to visit my family in NSW twice a year when I lived in the Northern Territory. It was also a 320km drive to the nearest town (Alice Springs) over mostly dirt roads just to do business and buy groceries. I loved it.
Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
I am grateful for the four days we were able to relax and enjoy the Aussie bush, sleeping and eating in our camper. I was also really happy that we could have dinner with my younger sister and her husband and catch up on each other’s families and busy lives. As we get older, we become even closer to each other, even though we are different in many ways.
I am looking forward to going to the local art gallery with my neighbour friend to the launch of a book about our town’s most famous person, the late Sir William Dobell, a major Australian artist of the mid twentieth century.
(c) Linda Visman
Tags: breast cancer, BreastScreen Australia, cancer, consumption, lungs, mammogram, Mantoux test, mobile testing, mobile testing units, screening for breast cancer, TB, tuberculosis, X-ray
Back in the 1950s and 60s, tuberculosis (TB) was still a problem disease in Australia. I didn’t know until a couple of years ago that my grandmother had it and that we were exposed to it for some years by being close to her.
I remember when we were young, there was a TB truck that visited country towns, where people would have a Mantoux test to see if there was any infection. It was a prick with a needle that put non-active tuberculin derivitave under the skin. The area would have a small reaction and swelling if there was no TB infection and a larger swelling if there was. I will always associate the smell of cleansing alcohol with that truck.
It also had an X-ray set-up, where anyone with a positive reaction to the Mantoux test would have an X-ray to see if there was any active TB. My father usually had to have one, though he never had active TB.
Whenever he had one of those X-rays, and also any routine chest X-ray, Dad was always recalled for a follow-up, because he had scarring on the lungs. This wasn’t from TB however, but was a legacy of the severe pneumonia he’d suffered and almost died from as a young child (Story here).
I suppose many of us have had X-rays taken at various times to check out an injury or a possible internal problem. Lots of people, just in the course of day-to-day living have fractured a limb, had chest X-rays for a necessary medical examination, or needed checking for something more serious.
Quite a few years ago in Australia, in an attempt to reduce the death rate from breast cancer, the Federal government brought in testing of women between the ages of 50 and 74. Every two years, we can have a free X-ray – mammogram – to detect the presence of any lumps or anomalies.
In large towns and cities there are Screening Clinics. In smaller country towns and rural areas, just as the TB truck did, a large BreastScreen truck makes regular visits, staying for a few days or a week to complete the appointment list previously booked. I took advantage of this and had my regular checks when the reminder came that it was time.
In January 2009, I had my mammogram as usual (fellas, try squashing your privates between two cold flat plates!) Previous X-rays had shown nothing, so there was no following letter. But this time, they had found something they wanted to follow up on.
Another mammogram to see if they saw the same anomaly – they did – followed by an ultrasound scan – it was still there – followed by a biopsy (all on the same day) and I was given the news that I did indeed have a cancerous lump.
I am happy to say that the cancer was contained and surgery removed it. I was advised to undergo chemotherapy as well as radio-therapy, as I had two indicators plus family history, that made it more likely there may be problems if even one cancer cell remained, even after the surgery. I undertook those treatments (and suffered from the well-known ‘chemo brain’), plus hormone therapy.
For the next five years I had free mammograms and ultra-sound examinations every year. In March this year, I said goodbye to my oncologists, as I am now considered cancer-free. I am a cancer survivor. However, I can still have free annual X-rays to find any new lumps that may develop.
I will be grateful for whatever pain and discomfort the mammogram causes. My father’s mother and sister didn’t have the chance to make a recovery from their breast cancers because they didn’t have the tests to catch them early enough for treatment.
I have been given the chance for a life that they didn’t have. I will make the most of it.
Have you had much experience of X-rays? Has an X-ray saved someone in your family?
© Linda Visman 28.04.14 (695 words)
Tags: cancer, chemotherapy, concentration
When I was writing Ben’s Challenge, my characters sometimes hid from me – at least, that is what it seemed like to me. There were many times when I sat at the computer or with my notebook and nothing came to me.
I didn’t know where the story was going to, or what event was about to happen to challenge and bring out my characters. Mostly, that would happen when I had other things on my mind, when I couldn’t settle to work.
The strange thing was, that on my chemo days, I was hardly ever stuck. After I had been connected up, had chatted with the lovely nursing staff and got to know a bit about the other patient who might be sharing the room with me, I’d take up my pen and I would write. Often, by the end of my two to three hour session, I would have a whole chapter written.
Eventually, Ben’s Challenge was finished, and it is now published as both a printed book and an e-book. Now I am writing a follow-up. It isn’t a sequel as such as in when a story continues in a saga, it is just another story about Ben and his life back in the late 1950s.
The book started with a rush, and I soon had three chapters written. Then is stopped. It was another six months before I managed to get three more chapters written. One reasons for this is the time I have had to spend promoting and selling the first book. However, I want to get back into Ben’s life and that of the other characters; some of them the same as before, and some new ones. But none of the characters are speaking to me.
It is only recently that I have realised that it is not the characters who aren’t speaking with me, but that, if they are speaking, I am too distracted to listen. I am distracted by the promotion and selling; by everyday life; and especially by the computer, with its emails, e-zines on writing, interesting blogs – and Facebook.
When I was undergoing chemo, I was in a recliner chair, ‘tied’ to a drip. I couldn’t go anywhere. There were only two of us in the room most of the time, and the other patient would often be reading or dozing for much of the time. The only interruption would be when a nurse came in to check or change the drip. But, most of all, there was no computer. Thus, I could focus on what I was doing, listen to the characters and write their story.
Obviously, the strength of my will power – or won’t power – is sadly lacking. I can’t keep the internet unconnected; I can’t close the door on my husband and on the other people who require my attention. So, if I do not develop that power to say ‘no’ and stick with it, the only way I can listen and write is when I go out somewhere – to the lake, to a coffee shop, to somewhere that life and the computer do not distract me.
So, because it is not my characters who aren’t talking to me, but me who is shutting them out, I just have to open the door to them again. But I don’t want another series of chemo treatments to help me do it!
(c) Linda Visman
Tags: cancer, persistence, publishing, selfdoubt, winning
I received fifty copies of my novel today – I never imagined being able to say that, but now, I can see them in the box I just picked up from the Post Office.
It took me four years to write Ben’s Challenge. All the way through, from the idea (it was originally going to be a short story) to the completion I had to battle to get it done. No, it’s not that I can’t write, or that it took many revisions, or that I didn’t know where the story was going and what I wanted it to do. And it’s not that I don’t know my grammar, punctuation and spelling either – I grew up in an era when schools taught that kind of thing. No, the problem was deeper than any or all of those.
My problem was a lack of confidence in myself, which manifested itself in many ways. The main issue I had to overcome was procrastination; after all, if I didn’t write, nobody could say it was rubbish, could they – and that included myself.
A life-long struggle with depression also helped make my self doubts into mountains I was certain I couldn’t climb. Even when my critique group expressed admiration for my style of writing and for the story, I wasn’t able to relax and go with the flow.
Funnily enough, it was during my eighteen months of treatments for breast cancer that I wrote the most easily and with the most confidence. I suppose my writing was no longer my sole focus, so I took the pressure off myself. My self doubts became background noise, which I could often ignore.
My book will be launched at a Writers’ Expo that my writing group is holding on the 6th of August. Two other members will be launching their maiden books too, so I will not be the whole centre of attention. I can handle that. And I am looking forward to seeing my creation in the hands of my readers. It took effort and tears, but I battled through.
“Ben’s Challenge” by L.M. Visman is a story for Middle Grades to Young Adult. It tells the story of a boy’s desire to discover who was responsible for his father’s death; his struggle to come to terms with his loss; how he finds friendship and learns to trust again.
It is available as a Print-on-Demand publication from www.createspace.com
© Linda Visman 2011