fourteen

Pages 47 — 50

We arrived at Dr Whittams’ Forster rooms a little early on Thursday, anxious about why we were called back to see him a day early. Oddly, we found ourselves in a dark, empty office, except for the two receptionists. They looked at us with surprise when we walked up to the reception desk. One of them asked what we needed. We told them we were there to see the doctor. The older of the two said, shaking her head, “oh no, doctors not here today. He has surgeries all day.”

Brendan and I were confused and explained how the Taree office had organised for us to be there on this day, at this time. A brief phone call and some awkward glances in our direction followed. Ten minutes later, the younger woman came over to where we were sitting and showed us into the doctors’ office.

“Doctor will be with you shortly. He said he would pop over and see you between surgeries,” she said apologetically. She then hurried out of the room.

It felt odd sitting in the quiet, poorly lit office, just Brendan and me. Like we shouldn’t be there. Sitting side by side, neither of us spoke, but both knew this was not how good news was delivered. We sat frozen, pale, shaken and too afraid to open our mouths for fear of what might come out.

Barely breathing, it felt like we were in a twilight zone. Things appeared to be normal — but we knew they weren’t quite right. A foreboding feeling had settled around me like a cold, dense fog. Our lives were about to change forever and not because of anything we had done. I heard a voice in my head reminding me to breathe.

47.

Dressed in scrubs, the doctor hurried in not long after we sat down. It felt like an eternity. He sat, pulled his chair toward us and brushed his still thick, black hair over the top of his head, in what seemed like a nervous gesture. Looking at us very seriously, he thanked us for coming in. He explained that he didn’t want to give this kind of news over the phone. I heard myself exhale heavily. I hadn’t realised I’d been holding my breath. Brendan was bracing himself. Sitting stiffly upright, straight back, hands clenched tightly together. He was stealing himself for what was coming.

“I’m sorry, this looks nasty.” Dr Whittam said.

I felt my world fall apart in a single heartbeat. Tears filled my eyes — not wanting to acknowledge the truth by sliding down my face, they did anyway. I saw Brendan’s body slump a little out of the corner of my eye, the breath squeezed from his lungs abruptly — as though he had just been hit in the guts by a sledgehammer. His chin shook slightly — as he took a minute to gain his composure and strength. That minute felt like an hour passing. Bren cleared his throat nervously and asked what would happen next.

After pointing out the two hot spots again on the same scans Bren had bought with him to the first appointment, Dr Whittam turned back to us. This was going to be a serious conversation.

“There is only one person I would trust to send you to, with what I think this is Brendan,” he said matter of factly. “He is an Orthopaedic Surgeon at Princeton Hospital and is the best we have in the country. I will organise with the people at UCC, where he has weekly clinics, to set up an appointment for you as soon as possible.”

48.

‘OK, so that’s, what, 4 hours away?’ Bren said

‘Correct.’

‘Is that the closest hospital I can be treated at?’

‘I think so if this is what it appears to be. It would be the best place for you to have treatment.’

‘Ok then, let’s do it.’

With that, the doctor held his hand out and shook Brens’.

‘I’m sorry to have had to tell you this Brendan, it wasn’t something I wanted you to hear over the phone.’

‘Thank you.’ Bren said.

‘If there is anything I can do for you in the future, don’t hesitate, even if it’s just to have stitches removed after your biopsy.’

Dr Whittam wished us well and said goodbye. We left his office dazed and spiritually bruised but not confused. Bren was in trouble. Being referred to one of the countries best orthopaedic and sarcoma surgeons and getting in to see him quickly was a double-edged sword. On one hand, we were grateful for the best care available, and on the other, it confirmed our worst fears. This was bad.

Bren was still driving at this stage — although his pain was getting worse by the day. When we got to the car, I asked him if he wanted me to drive. I didn’t know how he was still standing after what we had just been told and didn’t think he would feel like driving. It was a thirty-minute trip home.

‘What are ya — crazy,” He said, in mock horror.

We laughed as I got in the passenger side. Driving wasn’t one of my favourite things to do. I didn’t enjoy it, and my husband was meticulous in his teasing about how bad I was at it. Even though we both knew I wasn’t that bad at all.

49.

“Shit!” I said, not wanting to look at him as we drove out of the medical centre car park. 

‘Shit, Babe — Shit.’ He said.

 I had tears rolling down my cheeks, he grabbed my hand and squeezed it.

‘We’ll be Ok.’ He said.

I couldn’t find my words. All the way home, the word FUCK went around my head on loop. FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!

50.

A minute together before Brens first consult with the city team

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