Magda Rall – In her words
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Magda Rall was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer last year. She shares some profound writings of her experience and how she currently sees life.
Magda Rall (75), a widow, lives in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. She has two adult children.
Magda was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and underwent a radical mastectomy. Twenty-two years later, in September 2022, she was diagnosed with a new primary cancer in her lung with metastases on the brain after suffering a black out and a MRI scan was done. There were no other signs or symptoms. The 75-year-old is currently taking a targeted therapy oral tablet, erlotinib hydrochloride.
The waiting room – 16 February 2023
I am sitting on a chair in a waiting room waiting to be called in for a consultation. There are, I counted them, 15 chairs, each one slightly separated from the other. The waiting room is rather impersonal and the magazines either old or not quite suited for the kind of person frequenting this kind of consulting room. We do not suffer any undefined illness nor any somatoform disorder due to emotional suppression or long-standing unresolved traumatic experiences. We all have a common denominator. We have cancer.
I watch the people. Some sit and stare into a blank space of time: present or future. Some are seriously busy with their nails, picking pieces of flesh while others will sit with a magazine but never turn the page. One gentleman will, with intervals, get up and walk out the door into the passage and return.
Nobody speaks to anyone. The individual pain and fear are too overpowering. The not quite knowing which keeps us in the shadow. The waiting for the results for the blood or CT scan or X-ray or MRI. We all are just waiting. The results inevitably bring either a diagnosis or some kind of news; good or bad. Remission or regression.
A woman knitting a cable pattern has for the umpteenth time torn it apart and restarted the pattern. I hear her sigh but the sigh goes much deeper than the accompanied frustration of not getting the pattern right. Another one has been to the reception desk many times, wanting to know when she can see the oncologist. Receiving the same answer.
Then there is the gentleman sitting in the corner obliquely from me. He is a big man with huge hands wrung tightly into one another and has difficulty in containing his emotion. His breathing is laboured and his head permanently bent downwards. His cries were all inwardly directed, reverberating in his non-verbal behaviour. There was an empty chair next to him. I should have moved there and gently placed my hand on his big hands for comfort.
I did not do it.
What keeps us from becoming vulnerable in the eyes of this world?
A letter to anyone – 21 February 2023
I am sitting at my computer waiting for the next sentence to come to mind but my eyes focus on the glass door (sliding door) seeing how dirty it is, full of spots and streaks and wonder when last was I concerned with what is going on around me.
Up to now for the past six months I was only concerned with myself and of course particularly with my health and all the thoughts that come and go during such time. The mind has become disordered and chaotic and the neural pathways confused as to what kind of traffic it should give preference to. An overwhelming connection is that to death. I am aware that I need to befriend death.
If the patio door is dirty, what else has been neglected in the past months? I often think if Jolly, my little dog, was still alive he would also have been severely neglected. It is astonishing how quickly life can shrink to become a very small island with only one inhabitant. If Riaan, my son, was not with me, death might have come via loneliness and neglect and not necessary by cancer.
It has at times been a very tiresome journey up to now. On the other hand, suddenly life was squeezed into a moment of remembrance. Unfortunately a moment is always in transition and we can be in the past, the present and the future in one single thought entering the mind. But they flash past and I could not hold onto any for long. I have often hit a patch of total groundlessness and had difficulty in finding comfort in anything. I often lacked a feeling being safe and to the contrary felt very exposed to the world and its infinite confrontations.
In the beginning I just saw what was happing in my life as one big mess which I was convinced would swallow me. But steadily along the road the bird I saw suddenly became an interest, the laughter of the small children playing in the street presented joy, and being able to return to a sense of normality was a miracle.
I am doing well. I have been given a chance in life. But this is a different life. Every day presents an opportunity of appreciation of which I am becoming more aware of. It is okay to be caught up in a sense of distress, anxiousness and seek the elusive safety in my own discomfort. But my visitations to these areas are of lesser duration now.