© Brenda Joy

Winner, 2019 ‘Boree Log Award for Bush Verse’ Fellowship of Australian Writers NSW Inc, Annual Literary Competition, Eastwood/Hills FAW.

The doctor said, “It’s Cancer…” but I failed to understand –
this couldn’t happen to my John – my farmer off the land.
He’d always been the robust type and done his share of work –
grown cotton, managed cattle stations, Darling out to Bourke.

Accepting diagnosis was a wound that touched the heart
We knew that everything would change – but that was just the start.
We’d never had to think of health, we’d both been fit and strong.
In all of our retirement plans – disease did not belong.

My John was such a legend and he never once complained.
The most emotion that he showed was on the night it rained.
Just knowing that the drought had broken seemed to give him peace.
To me it seemed like God himself was sending me release.

The concept of catastrophe submerged within the plight
as doctors, drugs and therapies were weapons for our fight.
The momentary signs of hope remissions inculcate –
It’s worked!”  “He’s cured!” – but then – the re-bombardment of our fate.

Each day another drama, “John will need to have an op.”
I dreaded damage to his brain.  I begged the ordeal – “STOP!”
The sleepless nights, the pain-torn days, the constant plunging down
to reach the depth of dark despair where raw emotions drown.

The chemo and the surgeon’s knife – invasions of extremes
as treatments blurred into a maze of surrealistic dreams.
Oh John endured and how he fought – Australian men are tough –
but skills of modern medicine could never be enough.
I watched him grow so weak and frail, depleted – needing care.
     “Oh John, I’ll get your sticks my love.  I’ll help you to your chair…
     John lean on me, we mustn’t risk you falling down again…
     Just drink this Darling, take this tablet, it will ease your pain…

     Oh Darling, let me bathe you now, it isn’t any fuss.
     I’ll cool your sweating forehead. Let’s get rid of all this pus…”
They’d told about corroding flesh but no one ever warned
of lumps of rot that cancer grows to make a man deformed.

The putrid stench that permeates – the toxic brooding smell –
that’s Death! It hovered round our torture zone of earthly Hell.
I prayed for strength to see my husband through his final hours
I fought to keep control – compassion chokes and overpowers.

The ‘Cancer’ word cannot convey the force of this disease
that permeates and kills and causes human tragedies.
I knew that God was calling John to head along the track.
     “Farewell my Aussie hero – even love can’t hold you back.”


Unless you’ve lived with dying, it’s impossible to know
the agony that infiltrates.  The pain of letting go.
And now my John is lying here so rigid, stark and cold –
a withered wraith of human flesh, a body wracked and old.

This struggle has consumed my soul and I am all alone
beset by penetrating chills that shudder to the bone.
I’m in a desolation void unable to perceive
that all we’ve shared has reached its end and I am left to grieve.

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