The Privilege of Going Home

QueenThe lump made its presence known while shaving. I stood in the shower with both arms raised like a very confused (and somewhat overfed) ballerina. Turning my head from right to left and then back to right, I ran a comparison. Was one underarm bigger than the other? Was it raised? I found a mirror and repeated the process.

An appointment was made. A doctor asked questions of the not so subtle variety while prodding at the lump. A history of cancer? Last mammogram? A nurse stood by my side with puppy dog eyes. I felt the need to calm her fears, “we don’t know if it’s anything serious yet” I patted her on the shoulder – I thought I was hilarious, she looked confused, sarcasm and irony once again losing out in the battle of language.

I was referred on for an ultrasound and pointed towards radiology.

The radiographer was familiar. “You’re still here!” I smiled

“And you!” she immediately made me feel comfortable. Her head scarfe giving the impression she was about to join the Queen on a weekend trip to Balmoral.

While I lay with my arms raised and a layer of gel between us we both watched the screen carefully. Ultrasounds have lost their shine, no heartbeats and tiny hands and feet to spot. This ultrasound was all about blood flow, benign markers and Iraq.

“Will you go back?” my eyes left the screen for a moment to make eye contact.

“Not now, not with this whole ISIS…, I don’t understand, where are they coming from? Who joins these people?”

“Could you join your family in Australia? Your sisters?” we’d talked about them on my last visit.

“I’m over 45, it’s hard to immigrate after 45”.

“Did you see the boy who joined ISIS from Melbourne? They say he was one of the suicide bombers last week.”

She stopped for a moment, genuinely confused.

“Why? Why would anyone born in Australia do that?”

“I think he had other issues. I’d read he was an outcast, bullied at school. Maybe he was searching for something?”

“I can’t see anything scary here, I think the lump will go on its own, if it doesn’t we can talk about removing it. But there’s nothing to worry about today. Let’s meet again in six months.”

“You’ll still be here in six months?” Selfishly I wanted to see her again.

“I’m not going anywhere, I can’t go back, I’m not going anywhere”.

As I made my way to the carpark I looked down at my phone and realised I’d missed a call from my mother. I thought of her in the summer sunshine of Australia, of the chat I’d had with my sister the day before as she’d sat perched on a friend’s verandah showing me their beautiful garden.

“It’s beautiful!” G and I had both chorused at the sunlight, flowers and landscaping.

We could both appreciate the view knowing we were only months away from being back in Australia again. How lucky, how privileged.

How much we take it for granted.

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  1. Firstly, I’m so glad it wasn’t anything serious (I’ve been there and know how scary it can be). But yes! Yes! Yes. You tell such a beautiful story, Kirsty, it’s a talent. I have felt overwhelmed with privilege recently. Talking to new friends here who tell me about losing parents because there was no electricity at the hospital to fix an ailment that is not considered serious in the west, trying to explain to others why people would choose not to vaccinate their kids (but not really knowing myself) and knowing that if the shit hits the fan I have a very big safety net to return to. Many times I’ve tried to explain this on FB or social media, but often people are so blinded by their own privilege they don’t get it.

  2. Oh Kirsty, I do hope all stays well with you. Another wonderful tale from your life for us. I am glad you have the privilege of going home, it must be devastating for those who don’t.

  3. I am glad the bump was nothing serious. Gosh, these militants are trying to rule the world. Poor woman

  4. I hope you stay safe and that the lump does go away on its own. I had a lump on the back of my shoulders a few months ago and that was a bit of a scare! So grateful it was nothing. No matter how much I travel I’m always grateful I get to come back home!

  5. You are a fabulous writer! I’m glad you’re OK – these things do come and go. But you’re right – to never be able to go home, whether Iraq, Syria, a.n.other – we do need to take time to count our blessings regularly. Thank you for writing so beautifully and so poignantly.

  6. Phew. You’re Ok. Good for you for having it checked out! So many people still ‘wait and see’.

    You are very fortunate to be able to bounce between two homes. We are ‘lucky’ and I mean that in every sense of the word, to get back to Oz on an annual basis, and then it’s a frickin’ juggling act of when and for how long.


  7. Absolutely loved this post! (And I’m glad it was nothing serious…)

  8. So poignant and well written. And glad the lump wasn’t anything serious.

  9. Thanks for the slice of perspective. Glad that you have the all clear.

  10. Your writing is so good I often have to read your posts twice! This was one of those times.
    Firstly and more importantly I’m glad the lump was not scary. Secondly I often think about how lucky I am to be able to choose to live here in Australia. It’s so easy to take it for granted so thanks for the reminder that others are not so lucky.

  11. Beautifully told, as usual, Kirsty.

    It made me think of when I was teaching in the Middle East. There was a lovely Iraqi lady at the school and we would often chat in the staff room. The day they caught Saddam Hussein, she hugged my in the ladies room and whispered “It’s over..” yet she couldn’t say this out loud to the other Iraqi teachers, in fear of their possible opposing political views. Made me realise that, as an Australian, I mix with people of many religions, ethnicities, political persuasions, sexual preferences with opinions that could be diametrically opposed to mine. But we speak and act without fear of recrimination, being ostracised or repressed. Those of us whose homes offer us similar freedoms are truly blessed and all too often take these liberties for granted. We shouldn’t.

    Good news about your ultrasound, too. 🙂

  12. qbeethunderbay says

    Love your writing! Have been reading your blog for a couple of years now and enjoy your stories – they are universal and yet unique. I do miss the frequency of your posts since starting up your podcasts. I have listened to one or two of the podcasts but prefer reading your blog.

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