IT’S probably a cliché – but true nonetheless, as is the want of clichés – that in times of adversity the best of human nature shines through.
My wife is being treated for breast cancer. We’re staring down the final chemo treatment before moving on to the radiotherapy. And as terrifying and soul-destroying as it’s all been, this has been a time when we’ve seen the best of everyone.
To my eternal shame, I’d never really thought much of volunteers. I’d vaguely had the realisation that they did good things. But when we first started along this journey – as my wife had the offending lumps cut out at Traralgon Hospital – I made a realisation. Volunteers are not just filling in time, doing nice things so they can feel nice. Truly, if they weren’t doing the things they do the whole damn world would fall apart.
I stayed at a place called Gippsland Rotary Centenary House (for cancer sufferers and their loved ones). Funded largely by Rotary, it’s like a five star hotel at a discount price right near the hospital. They offer you counselling, a bed and all the other comforts of home.
At the hospital my wife was offered hand-crafted gifts by other volunteers.
In town, the volunteers are our friends – though we barely knew some of them before all this started.
I’d become cynical about the world and its inhabitants. This is an easy state to find yourself in when you work as a journalist, an occupation where you actively search for bad news and the despicable people who make it happen. But I can tell you – I was blind for too long and this has hit me like a religious revelation – that the good outweighs the bad. People are not as horrible as newspapers would paint them.
Since we learnt of my beloved’s cancer, a battalion of willing soldiers has sprung into action, cooking meals and taking kids at the worst of times. That’s the attitude that defines humanity more than the bad things some people do: a willingness to help in the face of something threatening. That’s why, despite all the obstacles, people have thrived. They care for one another. And, no matter what, they have a will to survive.
My wife has a will to survive too. Too see her children grow up, to regain her normal sense of self. I can see her in my mind’s eye – not far from now – with her hair grown back and a smile on her face. And that bastard cancer banished.
I see it – the bastard cancer – slinking away, head bowed and I tell it: “That’s right, mate. Tell your story walking. People have too much to offer for you to be trying to harm them. People are wonderful. My wife is wonderful. They don’t deserve you. She doesn’t deserve you. Just keep walking.”