I’ve got you, under my skin.

We are up at sparrow’s today, to be on the early ferry to the city. I have an 8.30 appointment at the hospital to have my main-line fitted in preparation for starting chemotherapy at the beginning of October. It feels strange being back on the busy commuter service, having been keeping gentleman’s hours for the past few weeks. Everybody seems clenched, and hunched as they scowl over their laptops and iPads and mobile phones. Nobody looks like they are having a very good time. I feel like telling them all to lighten up, and that things could be a lot worse, but I know they wouldn’t believe me.

We check in at the hospital reception, and after a short wait, a jolly Samoan orderly escorts us down to the Cardio Unit, where I am apparently to have an ECG before my surgery. While I’m waiting, I examine a display of PaceMakers from the 1970′s through to the present day. The Earliest model is about the size of a cigarette packet, with bulky cylindrical batteries, exposed wires and brass screws and fittings. It looks more like a small explosive device than a modern medical miracle, which of course it was at the time. The design from the eighties looks more like the stainless-steel Zippo lighter I would have been carrying around in my jeans pocket at that time, and by the nineties it had shrunk again to a slim Dunhill. The modern day unit was about the size and shape of a small USB thumb-drive. Amazing what they can do these days, as my mum never tires of reminding me.

In a small room, I’m installed on a narrow bed, and the specialist attaches seven or eight sticky pads to the front and left side of my chest. Each pad has a small tab, to which she clips a wire. The bundle of wires are in turn connected to the ECG machine, which is about the size and shape of a small photocopier on a low table beside me. Cardio-girl presses a few buttons, and the machine silently extrudes a yard of pink graph-paper with my heartbeats neatly and uniformly recorded across its length. I pull on my t-shirt and study the graph. “How is it?” I ask nervously. “All normal,” She says with a smile and hands me the roll of paper.

Buoyed by the news that at least part of me is still working as advertised, we are escorted upstairs to the theater suite where I’m checked over again by a nurse, blood-pressure, oxygenation, temperature, pulse etc, then shown to a changing room where I strip down and slip into something less comfortable. Next we meet the anesthetist, who is clearly a little harassed and in no mood to shoot the breeze. I figure It’s not in my best interests to make his day any worse that it clearly already is, and answer his questions and sign his forms without issue or comment. My surgeon, who comes in next, is a cheerful, fresh-faced Asian who introduces himself as Wai. I’m dying to ask him how old he is, but manage to resist the impulse. Wai is friendly and animated as he explains the procedure and answers our questions. He presents me with a package about the size and shape of a pizza-box with a red logo that says BARD Power-PortTM Implantable Port.(“Feel the new standard of care.”)

The device will be installed under the skin if my right upper chest. Wai pull up my t-shirt and draws a wonky circle in blue marker on my skin to mark the spot. He then draws a line up towards my neck where a tube will run from the unit up and into my right jugular vein, then dawn into my right aorta. It all sounds a bit scary but he assures us that it’s a perfectly safe and routine procedure, and that after a few days, I will hardly notice I am now part man and part machine. “How many of these have you done?” Jo blurts out with all the tact and delicacy of an advancing Panza division. “Nobody’s ever asked me that before,” Wai says with, I detect, a slightly injured tone. He does a quick mental calculation. “About fifty,” he offers, “maybe more?” With Jo satisfied as to his credentials, and an international incident narrowly averted, Wai departs and we return to the waiting area until my number comes up.

A few minutes later, i’m being pushed down another shiny green corridor in a wheelchair, with my pizza-box balanced on my lap. We crash through a pair of double doors and I’m in the Operating Theater. It’s an impressively large space, with a small group of blue and green figures gathered under large circular overhead lamps. I’m helped up onto the hard, cold operating table, and someone pulls off my socks and rolls on elasticated surgical stockings. My gown is untied and pulled down around my shoulders, and the anesthetist goes to work on my left arm. There is music playing, and there is an atmosphere of relaxed conviviality. I’m clearly the only stranger in the room. These guys seem to know what they’re doing, so I leave them to get on with it.

I close my eyes.

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  1. Nice picture, of the Helmut Newton genre

  2. simon r says:

    just read the entire blog, I know you’re a video creative by proff. but hell you write a mean tome my man – several laugh out loud moments, you should get Hairy McCleary Von Bogan Smith to e-book it – looking forward to your next installment. I totally understand your refs to North Shore, nearly became a stat myself, think I told you. Anyway keep banging away mate – love your work.

  3. Nick Mulder says:

    Linds,

    We met a couple of years back through Greg Wood – you were doing something for the Sky Tower with panoramic images at the time …

    I’ve just read your blog, some very familiar scenes – I was diagnosed with stage 4b Hodgkins Lymphoma a few years back, a grapefruit sized HR Giger chestbuster of my own (it pushed on my lung and restricted my breathing, they thought I had TB!). Anyway, after 8 months of fortnightly chemo I’m now in remission.

    I see you’re about to get into chemotherapy. If you or anyone close to you – for whatever reason – has anything to ask or whatever please feel free to email.

    (In my case, I think my cancer affected the people that loved me more than it did me)

    You’ve certainly got the gift for writing.

    Nick

    • Linds says:

      Hi Nick, yes I remember you well. Thanks for getting in touch, I really haven’t had much contact with others who have gone through the chemo mill yet – I’m going to an “orientation” morning at Domain Lodge in Tuesday, so I guess I will find out a lot more then. It’s very encouraging to hear from someone who has been through the whole thing and come out the other side with a positive story to tell. I’d love to catch up some time and hear your story. My email is linds@dmgltd.co.nz. Perhaps you could send me your phone number and I could give you a call? Linds

  4. Hi Linds, You may remember me from your Faulds days. We did a lot of music for Scotland and thankfully still do! Andrew Lyndsey put me on to your blog. A terrible subject but a great read. Keep battling on! Charlie Spencer

  5. Ian Dommett says:

    Hi Lindsey, just a short note from a former colleague who loved working with you and will be following your journey with all best wishes. Ian

  6. Gareth Howells says:

    Hi Lindsey, Shit mate. Sorry to hear that you got cancer. Stay strong! Don’t let the bastard get you mate.
    give us a shout on my email.

    garethh@newhaven-agency.co.uk

  7. Dear Mr Redding, sir…
    I read your Blog via a feed in UK and could not believe this was you..So long ago and so far away, yet so like yesterday. Just wanted to say ‘hello’ and wish you every support and best wishes in your current journey. You were such an inspiration to me in my informative years. Very best wishes to you and yours, and if you are ever back in UK would love to say ‘hello’… Kindest wishes and best regards Lynne x

  8. pete bastiman says:

    Fuck. How you doing, man? Stupid question, but you know what I mean. A beautiful picture you painted there. ‘Rediscover the power of the spoken word’ very appropriate. It moved me. Really wish you all the best and I’m gonna keep logged on to your progress. I actually tried to look you up a few years back when I was out in Sydney for a few interviews. But I kept hitting dead ends. Now I find you. But not how I wanted to find you. Pete. PS. Only you could do a fantastic shot of someone (you) pre-theatre!

    • Linds says:

      Hi Pete. Great to hear from you. Yes they think I’m a bit weird up at the hospital, I keep trying to take my camera into the O.R! Like I said, Total Disclosure ;)

  9. Hi Lindsay – David, Philippa, Chris and Ollie here in Canada. Sorry to hear the news but glad your sense of humour’s still intact. Still remember you going to a Christmas eve party as a Jaws victim and coming back after perhaps one or two GnTs too many and playing not so secret Santa as we kids “slept” downstairs. Good times. Best wishes to you all and stay strong.

    • Linds says:

      Hi David, I had no Idea you guys were in Canada – or at least if I did, I’d forgotten – where about are you? We have quite a few Canadian friends here on Waiheke, and we have been enjoying watching your team playing in the Rugby World Cup, which is on here at the moment. Have no recollection of the “Jaws Victim” incident, but by the sound of it, that’s probably just as well. Great to hear from you. Love to you all. Linds

  10. Tony Culmer says:

    Hi Lynds,

    I happened to be up at the hospital, the other day, visiting a 26 year old, fit, unhealthy fire fighter, dying of cancer. I inquired after you in ward 64 and was led on a ‘tour de Auckland hospital’, trying to find you. Unfortunately, by the time I tracked you down, you were in having your treatment. So I’m sorry I missed you. Please text me next time and if I can I’ll pop up and see you.

    • Linds says:

      Hi Tony, sorry I missed you. I’m home on the island again now. Will be going over daily for radiation for the next week or so. Let me know when you’re coming over next – be great to catch up. L

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