Tag Archives: Ovarian Cancer Australia

A morning with wrens

UntitledThere’s a particular crispness we get in the air in Bathurst at this time of year. This morning I found myself at my sock drawer, because my feet were cold. This is right on cue. This is almost the last day of summer. On Sunday it’ll be autumn. The garden just outside the back door is now a messy tangle of growth and decay and impossibly juicy, sweet, tangy, big red tomatoes. The tall withering sunflowers throw jagged shadows against the fibro shed wall. Busy brown fairy wrens, tails sticking straight up or swaying from side to side, land on the giant brown leaves and take rapid sips. Sip, sip, sip. They’re sucking up the tiny insects that are coating the dying leaves. A couple of weeks ago we had a luminous red and green king parrot standing on the great saucer of the sunflower head, binging on the seeds. Orange-backed beetles join at the tail and walk around like Siamese twins. There’s the hum of bees visiting the small yellow flowers of the straggly thin-leaved rocket that has gone wild, filling in all the spaces. The bees are wearing little yellow pantaloons of gathered pGarden at the end of summerollen. A wren lands on the windmill my nephews got at last year’s Easter show. She goes for an unexpected ride as it twirls under her weight. She rights herself with a bit of a flap and flies off stage right. I think back to the end of last winter when I planted seeds and tried to keep the seedlings alive in a wonky plastic greenhouse from Bunnings. Just the tiniest cotyledon leaves, then. And now – this tangled mass attracting swarms of insects and birds that you can harvest for lunch.



I’ve been running around like a chook. As the year got going, it picked me up and took me with it. Last year it left me alone, and I did my own illness thing. People shuffled themselves around me and my illness. Now I’m back in this general stream, out and about in town, sitting in committee meetings, work meetings. It’s all about talking things up, talking things down, opposing, celebrating, organising. People persuade me to get involved in their projects; I persuade others to get involved in mine. We’re all in there, haggling it out. So this morning it was good to just stare at the garden.


My Afternoon Teal went off brilliantly. The oven had conked out, so Larissa, up from Sydney, whipped things up in her giant brown mixing bowl and took everything next door to bake. She got the timing absolutely right, going back and forth, pulling things out at exactly the right time. Meanwhile Steve and I gave the house a once-over from front to back that still really only scratched the surface of a year’s dirt and dusty corners. Then, suddenly, everyone was there, eating cupcakes, drinking tea and bidding on the merchandise. A teal pencil sharpener, worth $2, sold for $30. It went on like that. My sister Deb, her husband Bernie and their two kids, Max and Joey, were enthusiastic auctioneers, thoroughly fleecing all present. We made a thousand dollars in one afternoon for Ovarian Cancer Australia. More money has been coming in since. This money will go into medical research and support for those who get this stealthy disease. In order to nurture and protect life. All life on earth has to end – we bloom and droop and die – but it’s nice to stretch it out a bit.

Time for afternoon tea

My name’s Tracy and it is thirteen days since I’ve had a coffee. I’m doing this one day at a time. I’ve sworn off before and I might have to do it again, but for now, it’s no coffee. What motivated this was a trip to the doctor a couple of weeks ago. The doctor had rung back after I’d done a blood test. Alarm bells. Please don’t ring after a blood test. It’s never good. He left a message saying he didn’t want to give the results over the phone. Ah, hell. Steve took an hour off work to be there. We went in, sat down. Steve opened his notebook, the one he used all last year to take notes in case I went into fugue state and failed to take anything in. The young doctor – he seemed new to the game, filling in for my usual GP – gravely told us that I had high cholesterol. We sat there waiting for the bad news. But he stopped right there at high cholesterol. I wanted to laugh loud and long in relieved delirious joy. But I didn’t. I sat there and tried to take the news as seriously as the young doctor was taking it. He told us why high cholesterol is a problem and what one should do about it. All the usual keep-healthy things.

Keep healthy things. Okay. So I’m off the emergency things like taxol and carboplatin and I’m on to common-or-garden preventative measures like diet and exercise. By the time I got home I had embraced the whole idea. I wrote notes for Operation Low Cholesterol and stuck them in a prominent position in the kitchen. I was keen to go back in three months time (by which time the young doctor would be in Broken Hill) with lower cholesterol and a gold star.

All last year, people (bless them) gave me hints and tips and books and websites about healthy eating. Other than hatching my own kefir in a jar kept in the dark under a black sock, I didn’t do any of it. Some people with cancer go for broke on the dietary front but I concluded that if things were that bad I would settle for the big guns. As in, “Nuke this, please.” Which worked out pretty well.

But now it’s over to me.

Coffee isn’t directly implicated in the high cholesterol realm, but the way I like it – a large flat white on full cream milk – is. I could ask for skim, but I fear that would be the slippery slope back into a bad habit (a bad habit for me; can’t speak for others). It’s easier for me to go cold turkey than to moderate.

But I’m not giving up tea. That would be a step too far.

I grew up in the tea-drinking culture of mid-century Anglo Australia. Mum got me on to tea before the end of primary school. (There was also Pablo instant coffee, but we won’t go there right now.) At a certain point during my teenage years I stopped having a teaspoon of sugar in my cup. Dad had his black with three heaped teaspoons of sugar. And a bit of lemon, if there was one in the house. The ritual of tea was heralded by someone singing out, “Cupda dee!” and there would be a line-up of cups on the bench.

I’ve always loved George Orwell’s eleven golden rules for making a nice cup of tea.

Now, having declared good riddance to everything ovarian-cancer related, I find myself organising an Afternoon Teal at my place next month. So I’m back in the territory. Early last February I was diagnosed with the disease; this February, like other Februaries in Australia, is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. Our team colour is teal (barely noticed in the sea of pink for cancer of that other part of the body). I’ve committed to attempting to make cupcakes (low cholesterol? gluten free? wholemeal? sugar free? the possibilities are endless) that look like this:

I’m no baker, or cake decorator, so it could be interesting. The purpose of my Afternoon Teal (Saturday February 21, 3pm-5pm) is to raise awareness of ovarian cancer and to raise money for research and support projects. If you’re in Bathurst and you’d like to come along, email me at tsoren@tpg.com.au; if you can’t come but would like to support the cause, here’s the link to my donation page: