10 May 1948 - 14 September 1998

The Fatal Diagnosis

This is an email message I sent to friends after the secondary cancer had been first diagnosed. After chemo and radiotherapy, Hazel had eighteen months remission, until November, 1997.

Date: Sept 11, 1995

You will be dismayed to learn that Hazel's breast cancer has reappeared, in the form of bone cancer. She would notice an ache in her hip after playing tennis, and first went to her surgeon in May. His diagnosis was negative: "a pinched nerve, perhaps". But the ache continued, and in late July she went to her oncologist. After extensive X-rays, bone scans, and CT scans, and after two weeks nervous wait, on August 1 metastatic cancer was diagnosed. Fortunately, no sign of cancer in the liver or lungs, only hip and vertebrae. Hazel underwent a two-week course of radiotherapy on her hip and on two vertebrae, which had also been diagnosed cancerous, and the pain is now slowly disappearing. In a week we have to decide whether she should undergo further chemotherapy now, or wait until later, when it might make her feel better, rather than worse.

Needless to say, we were both knocked over by this, having hoped that the therapy last year, together with the on-going hormone therapy, had cured the cancer. The is little hope of eliminating the cancer now -- the best to be hoped for is a long remission, with a high quality of life. But psychologically we're still reeling, even if Hazel is feeling a bit better. She quit work immediately, and is applying for invalidity retirement.

On the up side, we're in the process of buying a 9.5-acre property high in the Blue Mountains, previously owned by Olivia Newton-John's father and step-mother. The modern three-bedroom house, with an open fire-place, central heating, two bathrooms, great views from the deck, waratahs, and wallabies that appear in the evening to nibble the latest plantings, is going to be hard to leave on Sunday evenings, for our drive of 120 km back to Sydney.

As you know, Hazel has a great spirit. One of the hardest things for her is dealing with friends' concern face-to-face: it takes energy to convince others that she's not at death's door, or in great pain, and it's a natural impulse to want to reassure friends. I've been the informer for friends here, which leaves Hazel to talk about the new house, or the kids, or new diets, or making a garden, or recipes, or to laught at jokes. Indeed, we've been taping Seinfeld and Ab Fab. On another tack, we've started taping Hazel reading bedtime stories to the kids. They know that she has a sick hip, which explains why she won't pick them up and why she was going to hospital once a day, but given the uncertainty about how the cancer may proceed, and given their matter-of-factness, we haven't tried to explain more. There's another reason: if they reported to an unknowing adult that Mummy was sick with cancer, the reaction could be very upsetting for son or Zoë.

Hazel would be glad to receive a letter or card, but up-beat, without any pressure for reassurance from her, or indeed without any mention of cancer at all. Ask _me_ how she's going (and how I'm going too).

In the meantime, please feel free to email me, Robert.

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Last Updated 5 March 1999