About the author
Todd Alexander is the author of eleven books including his latest novel, Tom Houghton, released by Simon & Schuster in October 2015. A graduate of Law and Arts,Todd started his career as a bookseller and spent 12 years working at eBay. Today, Todd runs a boutique accommodation business and vineyard in the Hunter Valley with his partner, cat, pigs, ducks and chooks. He is also an advisor to the online marketplace, Bountye.
Words // Todd Alexander
‘What have you got there?’ Jeff asked my mum.
‘Just some scarves, just in case . . .’ Mum tried her best to hide the tears.
‘Oh Jude, if you go bald you won’t be wearing some two-dollar op shop scarf, give those to me.’ He took them off my mother and ran to put them back in the basket inside the cancer centre.
‘It’s okay to be scared, Mum,’ I whispered, ‘but you don’t need to be, because you have me.’
‘If you go bald, after I slap your head like Benny Hill used to do to his sidekicks, I will be going out to buy you the fanciest scarf I can find. You don’t need to look sick and cheap, Jude,’ Jeff said when he came back.
We all got the giggles.
‘Our cat loses a lot of fur too . . . I’ll brush him every night and pop it all in a freezer bag for you.’ Jeff added helpfully.
‘Thanks, you two,’ Mum said wiping away tears that were thankfully now happy ones, ‘I really don’t think I could do this without you.’
‘Rubbish,’ I said. ‘You’re the strongest person I know.’
For six weeks I took Mum to some of her radiation and chemotherapy sessions. Those hours with my mother were among the most beautiful we have ever shared, or are ever likely to share again.
At one of her first treatment sessions, the nurse couldn’t find a vein to insert the chemo needle. She poked and poked, and having never been a fan of needles (or doctors or hospitals or medicine) Mum turned green but never once lost her cool.
‘You should be used to that sensation,’ I told her after the nurse had left, ‘Dad’s been sticking pins into a doll resembling you for years.’
I feel honoured and privileged that Mum allowed me to share those moments of intimacy and fear. Yet in our determination to defeat cancer, we also shared some of the biggest belly laughs of our lives. I remained a bastion of positivity and hope while in the presence of my mother but would come home to Jeff and burst into tears, overwhelmed by the sickness surrounding her every day; amazed at her strength.
‘How have you stayed so calm and positive, Mum?’ I asked toward the end of the treatments.
‘There are a lot of people a lot worse off than me.’ She said simply and on the inside I just howled like a baby.