Hazel to Olya Khaleelee on June 21, 1994

The nineth of a batch of eleven letters taken from Hazel's laptop.

6 Vincent Street,
NSW 2041

21 June 1994

Dear Olya and Eric,

We were sorry to arrive home to discover that you had left the previous day or the day before that or some other earlier day ridiculously close to our date of our return. There's a great deal more synchronicity than we imagine. It would have been great to have you over and show you around -- Sydney likes to show off but I'm sure you discovered that.

We landed back in Sydney and erupted back into life going straight back to work, spending ourselves in the process, staggering towards Christmas, which kindly people arranged around us, and tottering into the New Year hoping that others would arrange that too. This Vogue Living contined until mid-April when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and within a few days I had had a mastectomy and I'm now undergoing chemotherapy with the possibility of radiotherapy to follow.

It was of course a tremendous shock, eased very much by a wonderful surgeon and now by an equally good oncologist. The chemotherapy continues for 6 months and the radiotherapy for a further 5 weeks. The incidence of breast cancer is alarming -- 1 in 15 or 1 in 9 depending on whether you have a relevant family history or other indicators. I am now so sensitised to the subject that I'm surprised there are so many naturally symmetrical women in the world.

Everyone has been enormously supportive. Rob, having spent most of the '70s living in California, has long known the value of sharing life's difficulties and with a little persuasion from him I'm now happily sharing my breast cancer with anyone who'll listen. A little persuasion is perhaps an exaggeration. He had to wrap his body around me on the sofa and force the phone into my hands to get me to tell my family -- born in Yorkshire I was born to stoicism -- but it was entirely the right thing to do.

Work has also been very good and I'm free to choose when I return. At the moment I choose not to return for some time. I have taken up painting with a portrait painter whom I've long admired. Unfortunately he spends 6 months of the year in Europe and I will only have had 10 lessons by the time he leaves but I'm lucky to have had those. I'm also taking piano lessons again. I have always wanted to learn blues piano and I've found a teacher in a neighbouring suburb who teaches both classical and blues. I start the day after tomorrow. Singing is also dear to my heart. And I will never give up tap dancing. What with that and the gardening, the patchwork, a few hundred novels to read and the odd one to write I'm in no position to go back to work.

Ah, yes, and the children. Rob very calmly in a matter of fact way told them about my cancer and they very calmly in a matter of fact way took it all in and only wanted to know one thing and that was whether I was hurting and as I wasn't everything was alright. 5- and 3-year-olds are very impressive.

I had planned to visit the UK in September for my niece's wedding and I'm still debating whether to or not. I may bring my son along. It all depends really on how I respond over the next couple of months. It would be tremendous fun. So we'll see. If I do come, it would be great to see you.

In the meantime,

Last Updated 10 December 2000