June 2014

Dr Whittam was not as old as I’d imagined. He was relaxed in his approach and made us feel comfortable, which was quite a skill considering why we were there. He greeted us warmly and asked Bren for the scans he carried almost simultaneously. 

Flicking them onto the light-box effortlessly, without looking where they were going, you could see he had done this a thousand times before. We could see something was wrong as soon as they were lit up by the light behind them. Two very obvious dark patches, one on each femur, could be seen clearly. I gasped involuntarily as my head turned sharply toward my husband. 

“Brendan, if you have a stress fracture, it’s not like any I’ve ever seen,” Dr Whittam said, nodding toward the scans. “We need to get you an MRI to determine those hot spots so we know what we’re dealing with here.” 

“Ok,” Bren said. He was the colour of the white sheet on the treatment table.

Bren had been experiencing recurring pain in his right buttock for almost a year, maybe longer. As an athlete, he was used to pain from sports injuries and generally worked through it. After several appointments over many months, his physio had done all he could to try and correct the problem. There didn’t appear to be anything wrong muscularly. Because his pain was reoccurring, it was suggested it might be time to see a doctor.

By now, Bren thought he might have a stress fracture in his femur. Although that would be considered unusual, he couldn’t think of any other non-muscular ailment that would cause a radiating pain between his mid-thigh and bum? 

After a visit with our family GP, Bren was sent for scans. An appointment was then made to see the local Orthopaedic surgeon.

I was becoming fearful that whatever my husband had was serious. Solomons’ words flashed through my mind.

I had meditated with Solomon, my spirit guide, and other wise ones who had shared wisdom with me generously during guided writing sessions.

He told me to get my house in order — many times in the two years leading up to Bren’s consultation with Dr Whittam. Me being me took him literally at the time. Now his words had come back to haunt me.

Dr Whittam walked back to his reception area with us. His two receptionists were chatting amiably as we approached the counter. They stopped their conversation abruptly to focus their attention on him.

“See Mr Maloney gets booked for an MRI, and I’d like to see him in my Taree rooms on Friday.” He said, passing the younger of the two Bren’s scans and a scribbled note while directing his instruction to the older woman.

She looked at him with raised eyebrows and a — how are we going to squeeze that in expression. Her thoughts weren’t vocalised. She knew she would have to make it happen, somehow. As the younger girl returned Bren’s scans, Dr Whittam patted me on the shoulder, looking at me sympathetically. My heart sank.

I can’t imagine what was going through Bren’s head. Whatever he was thinking, he remained calm — grace under pressure. The trip home was quiet and felt longer than it should have. We were scared. Finally, Bren broke the silence.

‘Knock, knock.’ He said
‘Who’s there?’ I said
‘Bed who?’
‘Bed, you can’t guess who I am!’

I got the giggles as I glanced across at him. His eyes were on the road, hands on the steering wheel, and a big smile on his face. I have no idea how he managed that.

‘Knock, knock,’ I said. Our kids were ten – knock-knock jokes were in an endless supply in our house.
‘Who’s there?’
‘Broken Pencil.’
‘Broken Pencil who?’
‘Never mind, it’s pointless!’

We were laughing as we turned onto Old Bar Road. Tyra and Baden were due to arrive home from school not long after we got home. We had to appear normal when they walked through the door. Over the next couple of days, life went on as usual. I had the kids organise, run errands, and do chores. Bren had part-time work to get to.

Ebsteins’, the company he worked for, were already being supportive because of his injury. They were letting him reduce his hours to what he could manage physically. His pain was getting worse, and standing for long periods aggravated it.

On the Wednesday after his ortho consultation with Dr Whittam, Bren was at a mate’s funeral. He had passed from cancer unexpectedly. He got a phone call from the doctor’s Taree receptionist as he left the wake. They had bought his appointment forward and wanted to see him that afternoon.

He knew he wouldn’t reach the doctor’s office before they closed. When he explained this to the receptionist, he was asked to go to the Forster rooms on Thursday. This worried us, as he had an appointment at the Taree rooms the following day.

On the 24/05/14 we celebrated our niece Tori’s 21st birthday. It was one week before Brens’ appointment with Dr Whittem. He was in too much pain to dance — uncle Bren always danced.


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