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January 2013, vol 8, no 4

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Jane Fraser

Star of the Show / Seren y Sioe

I take the call sitting on the stairs. The MRI has shown a spread of secondaries, you say. We’ve been sharing this language of the big C for a while. But now the time has come for the Chemo. We use the abbreviated form, the diminutive, the affectionate, as if we know all about the triple dosage toxin in advance. It makes it friendlier somehow, I suppose. You lapse back into military jargon then, telling me about invasion of major organs and attachments and how you are going to battle. You tell me in Welsh, you’re going to be seren y sioe – star of the show.

wheeling and reeling,
sucked into a big black hole –
heaven’s brightest star

I say I’m proud of your attitude. We must be positive. We have no choice. I use the we as if I’m going on this journey with you, like we’ve gone on other journeys in the past. I tell you that I feel useless but I can help with the practicalities, the kids, the dogs, the driving back and forth to the hospital. There’ll be a bed here for you to rest on between treatments. There’ll be good food, no junk, no additives, that we must try all we can to beat this and they say diet is a huge factor in survival rates. But I can’t tell you that you’re on your own on this particular journey or that you look so well.

a wolf hollers and howls
in the bright dead of night
at stars not understood

“It’s my hair,” you say, “I know it’s vain in the great scheme of things, but I don’t want to be seen in the showers after I play tennis.” I wonder about the tennis playing from now on and change tack. “You’ve always moaned about how thick your hair is – you can have the hair you always wanted now.” I tell you that you’d be amazed at just who wears wigs and that I think Joan Collins is bald. You laugh and we fix a date to see the best wigs available in Cardiff. We’ll make a day of it. Have lunch. Just as normal.

curtain up, bathed in light,
star of the show,
giving the performance of her life

The treatment is brutal. A killer, you say. You are weak and sick but still manage to go on smiling. “Don’t give up,” I plead, “we all need you, your family, your friends. Who’s going to take your bloody dogs for a walk?” “I’m tired,” you sigh, “so very tired… and sometimes death is the only cure.”

light years away,
that certain star keeps burning bright,
though long gone gently into that dark goodnight*

* with acknowledgement to the obvious influence of Dylan Thomas