Dear reader, once upon a time…

I would like to start the new year by sharing some important aspects of a real life story. A story which took place some years ago and in which I, unfortunately, was the main character.

Once upon a time there was an artist whose life ticked along in a wonderful way from one creative project to another. Each project presented the artist with a challenge, because without a challenge there would be no learning. And learning creates a rich live experience.

None of the artist’s projects have been as challenging, however, as one a few years ago. It announced itself with a lump in his throat. It wouldn’t go away so he went to see his GP who send him to an ear, nose and throat specialist who, in turn, there and then, organised an urgent operation.

With all the previous projects the artist had been in charge. For this newest project, however, the artist was in charge of nothing. Instead he was the subject of a project run by a group of health professionals. His GP, his radiologist, the oncologist, a dietician, a speech therapist, well-being nurses, plus the overall person in charge which was the person the artist called the god-doctor.

The god-doctor directed the story and kept the artist informed in relation to what was going on. She informed him, for instance, that he had throat cancer and, as an extra, she told him that he could lose his voice.

‘Learning is the best healer’.

Driving home from Ballarat, where he had received his diagnosis, the artist felt that he was in a somewhat strange place, not necessarily scared, but not that confident either. When he got home and, in order, to deal with his new reality he wandered off into the forest, where he had received many answers to questions of a creative nature. He created a large ephemeral work, not necessarily to make an artwork but more to get into a creative space and, consequently, into a positive one. (You cannot be in two spaces at once, so you cannot be in a negative space when you are in a positive one.) A space from where he could make a decision how to deal with his new situation. As a result he was able to deal with the card which he so recently had been dealt.

The point here was not so much the cancer, but what he was going to do with it. How to use it. He decided that it was just another art project and that he would document it.

‘Being an artist is like starting each day like someone else’.

It was at this time that the artist realised that his mind, like a wild untrained dog, was continuously pulling him into a negative direction. It needed a tight hold on his leash to keep it in the positive domain. However, the artist also realised that he had to let it go to see where it would take him.

Therefore, one day when he had entered the forest, he let it off the leash and it ran straight to the thought of death. He realised that he had to deal with that one. This took a few days of walking in the forest and he realised, especially after being knocked out for his operation, that being dead was easy. He also realised that he had lived a charmed life, lived so long that everyday seemed like a bonus. Lived a creative life, a life well lived and without many regrets. And if he had to step off the dance floor, so be it. He accepted that and as a result took away death’s power over him.

‘The pace of happiness is calm’.

Many things happened. But I need to skip most of it to come to the reason why I am telling you this story, just in case you, or a family member, a friend or a person who is reading this story, finds themselves in a similar situation.

At the start of the process of clearing the body of the cancer, the god-doctor arranged another meeting The reason for this get together was that she informed him what he could expect from this treatment. His skin would get a sunburned look and even develop blisters. This mention of the sunburn took the artist straight to his childhood, to a time when he would return home from a day at the beach, badly sunburned. His mother would grate a cucumber and with the mash on a piece of cloth would dab the burned parts and, as if by magic, the pain would disappear.

At once an idea began to formulate in the artist’s mind. As soon as he was done with the doctor he went to the grocers and obtained one of those objects which, when filled, with fruit juice and placed in the freezer would make you your own icy-pole.

When the radiology treatment started and when each session had finished the artist would go and sit in his car and wipe the cucumber icy pole around the inside of his mouth and on the area on his neck which had been blasted by the radiology. He did that for 5 times a week for 7 weeks. There was a slight touch of redness at the end of the treatment, but the artist never had any blisters. During the last session with the god-doctor and after she remarked on the artist’s excellent skin condition, the artist, with great enthusiasm, reminded the doctor about the story of the cucumber and suggested that she let her patients know about this simple but effective method which may, or may not, work but in any case would not do any harm. She wasn’t very responsive to the idea and told him he should patent the idea, whereas the artist just wanted to share it.

‘Fear is not of the present, but only of the past-and-the-future, which do not exist.’

Dear reader, the artist wrote this story to let you know that it worked for him and that there was no reason it wouldn’t work for anyone else. So, since you are you are not likely to receive this information from your doctor, give it a try. It may surprise you.

‘Reality is the invention of unimaginative people.’


Petrus Spronk is a local artist and author who contributes a monthly column to The Wombat Post.