“Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

Thankfully, the flight touched down right on time at Brisbane Airport at around 6.30 am. My mother greeted me. “I need to go to the doctor and the hospital,” I told her.At the clinic, the doctor gave me an examination. “Without x-rays, I cannot be sure of what the problem is, he said. “ From my initial examination, it could be that you have a swollen liver.”

“A tumour?” I responded.

“That diagnosis is a long way down the line. Nothing can be ruled out.” I then gave a blood, stool and urine sample to go to the laboratory. The doctor arranged for me to have x-rays the following day.

At the x-ray clinic, I stripped off. The technician rubbed cold cream over the entire stomach area and sides of the body, and then touched the body with a kind of poker and looked on the screen. Even the most gentle of touches in the stomach area caught my breath.

I put my shirt back on. “Well, what do the x-rays reveal?” I asked.

Do you want the good news first or the bad news, “he asked.

I smiled.

“The good news is that your kidneys, liver, stomach, spleen are in very good condition. The bad news is that you have a badly infected gall bladder and two gallstones. One is very large at two and a half centimetres and other is small but dangerous as it is perched on the edge of the tract into the intestines. If it slips into there and gets stuck, it is very serious. You may need to have your gall bladder out.”

“Why have I got gall stones and an infected gall bladder, “I asked. (Gall stones consist of the hardening of calcium and cholesterol, internet informed me)

“Blame your mother,” he replied. “It is usually hereditary. (My mother had her gall bladder out and so did my grandmother).

A doctor later told me that professors tell medical school students that those highly prone to gall stones were the “Four F’s” – name Female, Forty, Fat with Fair hair. I didn’t quite fit in to any of those categories. I am male, in my 60’s, silver haired (I am told it sounds better than white-haired) and thin (181 centimetres and 67 kilos).

The next day the doctor prescribed a heavy dose of penicillin tablets and sent me with the x-rays and a letter to the Royal Brisbane Hospital for an appointment with the surgeon. At the A and E (Accident and Emergency) unit, my mother and I waited a couple of hours to be called.
The nurse came out and called out “Christopher Titmuss, Christopher Titmuss.” I got up.

The nurse then came over to my mother and I sitting on two of the seats in the long queue waiting to be called and then said: “You can bring your wife with you to meet the surgeon as well, if you wish.”

“MY WIFE”, I gasped. “That’s my 87 year old mother!”

Now I really felt ill. The surgeon essentially told me that I could have the gall bladder out or go on an absolutely fat free diet, and then take such steps for an operation to dissolve the gallstones or have the gall bladder removed when I get back to England.

I took the diet option. My mother and sister, Judy, took good care of me. The wonderful managers for the DFP and retreat, Judy and Christine and Mudita, and Brian and family cooking at the dharma gathering also provided a special diet. No oil, no butter, no cakes, no cheese, no milk, no biscuits. No café latte. No tea with milk. It’s a hard life. The non-fat diet worked. I am now on a low fat diet. I skipped visiting the physician when I returned to England.

I am still in recovery from the nurse viewing my mother as my wife.

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