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These articles are my intellectual property. Please do not copy or distribute without my consent. Contact Anita to purchase use of these articles

 Anita Ryan © 2002

When the (rather cute Heath Ledger doppelganger) radiographer told me to take off heverything except for my hunderpants, I realised the wisdom of the mother's urban myth that you should always wear clean undies in case you get hit by a bus. My Elle McPherson G was not chosen with the intention of showing it off to interns and emergency staff, but it did help to redeem some self-respect as I swanned with as much pride as a breezy swamp-green gown will allow through the hallways on my way to an MRI scan.

My nightmare started when I got into work one morning. I sat down at my desk as per usual and started tapping Very Important Things on my computer. Without warning, I went spontaneously blind in my left eye. When I say “blind” I mean, when I closed my right eye I was asking “who turned out the lights?”

The irony of my bumper sticker (“I’m a one-eyed Swans supporter”) was not lost on me as I drove into Bunbury to visit my GP. She sent me immediately to the town’s only ophthalmologist, where, upon my arrival and reading my referral letter, the receptionists fast-tracked me into see him, ahead of the waiting-room plebs sitting under the sign: “We apologise for the wait”. I stopped myself from royal-waving them, as judging by the cobwebs the poor darlings had been waiting a while.

The ophthalmologist in turn fast-tracked me to the hospital for an MRI scan. The minor obstacles that a) there is only one machine servicing the entire South-West population of more than 150000, and b) it was having a day off, did not deter my super-hero ophthalmologist. He located an MRI operator and hauled him in to turn the machine on and stuff me in it.

Standing in the lobby at Imaging The South, I was supported by a very kind receptionist as she informed me the cost of the scan had no rebate available from Medicare for this particular machine. “But you can always travel to Perth,” she said, “where there are six MRI machines that are rebated by Medicare.” Sure, and have a stroke while driving, I was thinking miserably.

At that moment, I had never experienced an outlook so bleak – even though Imaging The South have capped its fee to below the Medicare benchmark as a conscious contribution to the community well-being, the inequity in affordable health care between city dwellers and regional folk is outrageous. Despite the fact that rural and metropolitan Australians pay an identical percentage of their income in the Medicare levy, an equal level of service is not supplied. If the South-West region has a growth rate three times that of the national average, why hasn’t this region been issued with a Medicare license already?

Questions like this ran amok through my head as I was lying prone inside the MRI machine. I was also trying to not think about elephants – it was easier than not moving my head or eyes for the whole two hours I was in there. I also “window-shopped” for a new glass eye in a contrasting colour, I wondered if my skin care program was working (and if so, why don't I look twelve?), and went out of my mind with the Van Morrison music playing out of time with the machine’s click-click-brrrrrrr-boom-boom beats. Anything rather than think about the hideous tumour that I was sure, by now, was growing behind my left ear giving me three months left to live.

A few hours later, my ophthalmologist rang with my results saying, “You don’t have Multiple Sclerosis, you are not at risk of having a stroke, and it is not a tumour,” but all I could hear was Arnold Schwarzeneggar in Kindergarten Cop yelling, “it’s not a toomer!”

Despite the diagnosis remaining forever a mystery, I laughed maniacally and yelled myself hoarse that it is not a toomer. I cleaned all mangy hunderwear out of my drawer – there is no room for non-performing elastic in my life. I opened a bottle of Moët & Chandon that I’d been saving for a “special occasion” (and from now on all toomer-free days are special occasions). I exercised gratitude for all the little things that make life special – a full moon, an empty parking space, a crackling fire, a fulfilling meal, a glorious sunset, non-rashy shaved legs, sharing jokes with friends, non-smelly fake tan, hot soup, cold champagne. And I let my son stay up an extra half an hour so I could spend more time with him – now that is something to be truly grateful for.


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