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Chris Slatter

My Blog


Back from the Dead



I was lying in my hospital bed, decorated with tubes that were variously draining, feeding and medicating me. I was dozing, although it was mid-morning, when a light touch on my leg awakened me. I saw my doctor, a consultant haematologist sympathetically smiling at me. It was the sort of smile you might give to a sick pet, or an ageing grandparent. I could guess what was coming.

“You know you’re dying, Chris, don’t you?”

 This was in October of 2017, just a few months ago.

There was certainly reason for the doctor’s pessimism. I had lost 50 kilos over the past two years and was then undergoing my second course of chemotherapy. As I have mentioned before, chemotherapy, though designed to relieve cancer sufferers, can actually make them wish they were dead. I had lost my hair twice and had become bed-ridden, unable to walk, only barely able to move. And yet somehow I knew I was going to survive. This was not due to any positive mental attitude, but caused by a certainty that I had work to do. But what?

 First, a few words about this dreadful disease that afflicts so many, and yet is talked about in whispers as you might imagine plague once was. Cancer will be diagnosed in 134,000 people in Australia this year according to the Australian Cancer Council. It is the second highest cause of death in the nation. Globally, more than 14 million new cases occurred in 2012; in the same year more than 8 million cancer sufferers died. These figures will have grown in the intervening six years, you can safely bet. Now contrast this ever-present menace with the fact that it is rare to hear cancer being discussed. Even in the chemotherapy clinics – enormous galleries with row upon row of treatment couches fit enough to grace a space ship – cancer sufferers speak in whispers and avoid each other’s gaze. Ashamed to be so afflicted, I suppose. Again, the parallels with the plague come to mind.

 It may surprise you to know that the eminent physician-writer Siddhartha Mukherjee says in his book The Emperor of all Maladies that there is evidence that cancer is caused by one rogue cell. Yes, just one cell that instead of dividing and then dying as it is supposed to do, just goes on frenziedly dividing and forming masses in the body before going on a rampage, founding colonies of itself wherever it lands.

 My tumour had done this and I was the host of several large growths that were sapping my body strength and would eventually take my life.

But one day, shortly after my doctor had delivered her depressing prognosis, they were gone. Gone from my kidneys, my liver, my bones and all the other bodily locations the progeny of that one rogue cell had settled.

 The CT scan that I had received a month before had resembled a synoptic weather chart, patches of orange and red on a field of black. I had been sent home to die shortly after my meeting with the haematologist. But one final scan was given to me, to confirm the doctor’s diagnosis. I remember quite vividly the phone call that one merciful registrar had made to me while I was being driven home after the CT scan. “There is no evidence of any lymphoma in your body and no evidence that it has ever been there,” she said. As you would expect, I burst into tears. It was a miracle. I had been spared.

But spared for what? And why? For the past six months while I slowly recover I have been waiting for the call from Loki or some other messenger calling me to service. It is a disturbing belief to have, let me assure you, that you have some purpose. It’s perfectly okay in tales like The Lord of the Rings, quite acceptable, in fact, in all fairy tales and most fantasy fiction. But it’s an odd belief for a grown man to suddenly acquire. It leads to questions such as how will this summons come? Will my partner tell me one day that, “Someone called Loki called. He has a message for you.” Or should I be particularly alert for a modern day Paul Revere to gallop up, or even Nancy Wake, the famous White Mouse of WW2, to leave a note.

Or perhaps this belief resides only in my imagination, a rationalisation for what caused this spontaneous remission. I’ll let you know.


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About Me

I have been an advertising copywriter, film director, teacher of screenwriting and a television producer. I have worked for some of the world's largest advertising agencies in Australia and the UK before attending the London Film School for two years.

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