Just call me Mrs Turkey

We were meant to have a little Australia Day party tonight. I was going to dress up as Dame Edna, G was going to be Keith Urban (we were going to have the BEST hair). I wasted a good part of my day yesterday “sourcing” outfits. I had the Edna hair, the glasses, the feathers and the gladioli. I’d put together a play list that involved 9 hours of Australian music, really good music. We’d stocked up on supplies, made lamb pies, bought prawns, and fished the flags and decorations out of the back of the cupboard.

And then everything turned a little pear shaped.

It began yesterday. G had been complaining about not feeling well. I seem to remember hearing the words hot, dizzy and fever. And then, while attempting to change the toilet roll, he lost his balance and nearly wiped himself out on the towel rack.

That was when I stopped making jokes about Man Flu.

“Should I cancel the party?” I winced while I watched him clean up the blood from his forehead.

“I’ll be fine tomorrow”.

And then tomorrow came.

I went to wake up the boys and slid across the floor through something slimy and yellow. Before I could make enquiries a child provided the necessary information.

“I threw up”

Another child looked down and said in a surprised and somewhat excited tone.

“Oh – I thought that was wee!”

I found another child wrapped in her quilt on the playroom floor, her cheeks were pink, lips dry and her eyes were shadowed with dark circles.

“Go and hop in to bed with Dad – and tell him Mummy is going to cancel the party”

As I sat down at the computer to send out a message to my fellow Aussie celebrators, people who I knew were planning an evening dressed as Olivia Newton John, Merv Hughes and Dennis Lillee, I absentmindedly ran my hand under my arm.

There was a lump in my armpit.

Within the next 30 seconds, I had both breast removed, chemotherapy, was wearing a bandana and making videos for my children to keep as keepsakes.

And then I remembered I still had to take one child to school and pick up another from school camp.

I looked over at G who had just finished coughing up a lung. “There’s a lump under my arm”.

“Well – you better go straight to the doctors, like, now.”

And then he returned to dying a slow but vocal death.

By the time I actually made it to the doctors surgery I was riddled with tumors. This lump under my arm must have been the explanation for my sore shoulder (even if it was a different arm) and that pain in my knee surely meant the disease had taken over my body. A nurse made her way in to the waiting room and looked in my direction.

“Ms Turkey?”

“Umm, no. My name is Kirsty – but you can call me Turkey if you like”

I gave a half hearted nervous laugh.

Her face remained blank. She didn’t seem to find me funny. Okay, so my name was now Turkey.

When I saw the doctor we made some small talk. She was Egyptian, I was Australian. I had children, she had children. I liked living in Qatar, she liked living in Qatar, I showed her my breasts, she showed me……

She gave me a referral to the radiologist, marked it with an urgent stamp and on a separate piece of paper she wrote the name of another female doctor.

“There would usually be a wait of maybe two weeks but you need to go now. Ask to see her, I’m going to ring her now and tell her you are coming”. Her conversation is sprinkled with “Yanni” “Inshallah” and “Halas”.

I sat in the waiting room of the radiology centre thinking about lamb pies, children with soaring temperatures and where an appropriate location would be to arrive dressed as Dame Edna. I receive a text from G “Are you sure you don’t want me to come and sit with you?”

“Ms Turkey?” another nurse appears.

Within minutes I was naked with a Nurse from the Philippines and a Doctor from Iraq. All three of us are looking at my breasts.

“You know usually I’d expect you to buy me a drink before we got to this stage” my nervous laugh returns.

Once again. Blank.

Sometimes language just doesn’t translate. Particularly when it’s a joke, and it’s lame. When things begin to get serious we all understand each other perfectly well. We begin to speak the language of lumps in underarms and lymph glands. We speak of mammograms, cysts and growths, benign and malignant.

“There is nothing sinister Ms Turkey”

She shows me my lump, takes some measurements, explains why it’s not sinister with words that make me screw up my nose, words like “fatty” and “abscess” and “cyst”. And I feel like a very lucky Australian in Qatar. I tell them about the party, about Australia Day and how maybe I’ll just have the party on my own. I giggle at the thought of me sitting alone dressed as Dame Edna with a bottle of bubbles in one hand and lamb chop in the other. The euphoria of my fatty cyst has me completely cracking myself up by this stage.

They stare at me blankly.

Stop talking and keep it simple.

“Thank you” I say. “Thank you so much. It is a big relief”.

“Happy Australia Day” says my new Iraqi friend.

Happy Australia Day.

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