This post today is not about adoption but starts from the moment the then prime minister of Australia did offer a heartfelt apology to all those affected by past adoption practises. it is about the continual uncertainty that life brings and is a lesson for all adoptees and other people to understand. The lesson is that there will always be major trauma and events that affect you and those around you that you love and that to sheet home blame to others or what may have happened when you were a baby is to ignore the reality that life for all its wonderful glory does involve tragedy, trauma and all of life's not so wonderful events and these shape you and test you.
For many years my life has been mixed up in adoptee activism which sometimes has taken me from the emotional connection to my loved spouse, Sheryl. Sometimes i questioned my commitment to her in this period as being led into the "light of healing" and leaving the comfort zone of rationalisation and logical facts had for me become a disaster with emotional confusion, a emotional breakdown many miles from home and a questioning of my own values. This had happened before when i discovered I was adoption but the generous abuse of alcohol and loose women in a foreign land had deadened the pain, albeit at the expense of the welfare of my family. So this time having gave up drinking in vast quantities, i felt every inglorious heartache, every piece of abuse levelled at me because i was considered a uneducated brain washed moron. Some felt i had leadership qualities but for me personally I always felt uncomfortable even being thought of in that role. so even that caused conflict within me. many wanted me to bare my soul which i did and then it was used against me in later disputes. A old boss of mine once said " Murray you are too honest for your own good". he was right because being honest with people within the adoption community is a recipe for future heartache.
Bu the time of the apology this was broadly receding as a important issue because i felt i had regained my equilibrium . So off to Canberra I set off two days before the apology, the 19 march 2013. The next day was to prove a life altering time for Sheryl and myself. There was a message on my phone for Sheryl to ring the breast screen people at Ballarat as they needed her to come back. I called Sheryl and she contacted them and when i was meeting with our local MP Catherine King that morning of 20 march 2013 she was back at breast screen having a biopsy, two lumps had been found. A week later we were sitting in a private room at breast screen being told that the tumours were malignant and that they were triple negative. The next few weeks are a blur; we saw the surgeon at the hospital and Sheryl was admitted for a full mastectomy of the right breast and full ancillary lymph nodes removals on 23 April 2013 two days before ANZAC day. The operation was successful and 5 days later Sheryl came home. In subsequent days we were told the 13 removed lymph nodes were negative but in the last month we found out that three were in fact positive. Why we were not told I don't know
Sheryl was due to start chemotherapy by early June bur was delayed due to problems with a seroma drainage, One session she was actually drained of 700 mils of fluid, the equivalent of a large bottle of beer. Her first session of chemotherapy, using a broad spectrum drug as there is no targeted treatment for triple negative cancers seemed to go off without a hitch until the ninth day after when I had to rush Sheryl to hospital with a raging temperature. That night she went tachycardia in front of me and passed out. Thankfully that was in emergency. Sheryl remained in hospital for the next nine days, 5 of them she was mostly delirious. I believe the only thing that stopped me from breaking down was the Lexapro medication i have been on. I could not cry but inside i was very very distraught.
As a sideline this was also the time a person who claims to be Maori, indigenous , Irish and any other racial mix she decides on at the time decided to launch a vicious attack upon me on the Adoption truth and Transparency Facebook page further adding to my distress. This person who has a love of dingoes was acting like a dingo around a child at Uluru, striking whilst i was at my weakest. I sought help and support from whom i considered to be friends by asking them to remove this person from their list. Instead they rebutted and rejected me one of them saying , Cancer is temporary; adoption last forever. Well Nim, the cancer may not last forever but as you will read, the after effects can and for Sheryl do last a lifetime.
When Sheryl had her second round of chemotherapy, she lasted four days before being back in hospital for 5 days this time with thrush from the sinus's through to the stomach . When she was admitted her blood sugar levels were 30 ,( Sheryl being type 2 diabetic). This I have been told that have been the catalyst which has left her the way she now is. She had developed a allergy to the antibiotics pushed into her during the period she was delirious.
Thankfully the final course of chemotherapy only resulted in a short time in emergency. Her chemotherapy main drug was a drug called docataxyl which can have a adverse reaction to diabetes sufferers and can cause long term damage.
From the time of her admission until then we had been coping on a very reduced source of income, mainly my military retirement pension and some income from the limited work i could do. To manage I had been juggling the bills and using credit cards that I had previously cleared out to zero balances. but this could no longer go on.
When it appeared that the reaction to the chemotherapy for Sheryl was extremely negative, with very bad neuropathic pains in the legs which were swelling up, numbness in the left hand, Lymphodema in the right arm, and poor cognitive skills, we knew plan A was out the door, so we applied for a Disability Support pension for her in September 2012 After 8weeks she was refused based upon the fact that they needed to see if the damage to her nerves etc were permanent at the first anniversary of the operation. in the Interim they put her on Newstart with no job search requirement . Upon checking i found about 60 percent of Newstart recipients are people parked there with no requirement to seek work. One fortnight she received about 45 cents Newstart when my pay was a little high. gain because i could not put a full effort into work because i had to look after her meant our income was dropping rapidly and the hole was becoming bigger.
I applied for the Carer payment and allowance in late October 2012 after she had been refused the DSP. By christmas no decision on my application was made hence the hole became bigger, To help a little , I successfully converted my home loan to a interest only loan for twelve months thus reducing the repayment burden. After a enquiry in February this year the carer payment was approved and the allowance a week later. In April 2014 Sheryl was approved for Disability support and whilst our income is some twenty to thirty thousand less than before, at least we have consistency. We are climbing slowly out of the hole.
But Sheryl's chronic neuropathy continues, She cannot walk any distance without a walking stick, we are now looking at the pro's and cons of buying wheelchair for her so at least we can move around without her becoming tired and in pain. She still uses Endone twice a day and lyrica twice a day to control the pain. She regularly attends hydrotherapy, Lymphodema clinic and and a counsellor. but the pain is a constant and quite often i try to avoid her in the morning until the pain killers kick in. She tries to help me around the house, mainly because we mere males never do it the way a woman does, but that is also very limited. She has been to emergency twice this year due to temperature spikes and reactions to antibiotics. We never know from one day to the next how the day will be.
This is now our retirement life, not exactly what we had envisaged but she has been cancer free for twelve months and we can still laugh at each other. it is a prime example of the uncertainty of life. often at night i ponder what can i do to improve Sheryl's life so she can have some enjoyment because her enjoyment would lift a giant weight off my shoulders. I also think about myself and how i will handle it in the future as i age. It has made me really understand that she is my life and whilst i may get sidetracked on adoption issues and yes a pretty smiling face sometimes, my loie without her would be very hollow indeed.
I have not written this to elicit sympathy for i know that we are not alone, there are millions of couple worldwide that have the experiences we have. Rather it is to show those adoptees who wallow and cry woe is me, i was adopted., how cruel people are because they don't empathise , that they should look at how fickle life experiences are and how unpredictable life can be. This is something we have been taught in womb, when removed, how families have treated us. The world and governments do not owe us anything. It is our responsibility to soldier on, looking for help from professionals not fly by night quick fix experts. it comes back to the motto of "forging meaning thus building identity" .
It is not about you and your birth , it is about being a person who lives a life to the best they can and we are flawed. Society will offer sympathy then get on working out how to get the new smart TV they want. Get used to that. Those adoptees who decided i was not worthy of their friendship because i spoke my mind forcibly are prime examples of stiff bickies attitude in society. they express words of sympathy and empathy but underneath they are only concerned with their own feelings and attitudes. And like dingoes they circle the wounded warriors who have a concern for the future and those who will be joining us