Not Quite What I Expected

 

Yvonne is one of my closest friends. Many, many years ago, one hot summers day, we decided to go out for a swim. Yvonne swam like a fish. I did not. After watching my efforts for a few minutes, she observed, “Mal, you swim like a drowning rat!” (It’s been over 25 years and we’re still friends – but only just 🙂

This past October felt, at times, like a whole month of Malini playing The Drowning Rat. I never went near a pool once, but I sure was battling to stay afloat. It was the month that Greg, my husband, staged his musical. He was supposed to be dying of cancer, but instead pulled off an amazing feat – rehearsing, directing, singing, holding large chunks of data in his head, taking bows and being fairly awesome. It was all I could do to keep up with him and not drop dead myself.

He may well still be dying of cancer – we’ll find out after Nov 9th when they do the next CT scan, but he’s sure had a good run so far. It hasn’t been all butterflies and daisies, mind. We’ve lived through some hellish periods in the last two and half years. Multiple surgeries and dozens of emergency hospital admissions. With the diagnosis of terminal cancer comes a roller coaster of hope and despair, unbelievable kindness from friends and strangers, and a lot less sleep then you’ve ever had in your life. You learn one of life’s greatest lessons – how to live with complete uncertainty. Or you give it a damn good shot, cos if you don’t, it takes over your entire being. And I refused to give myself over to the illness that was trying to kill my husband.

Now, just two weeks after the show, Greg is all set to climb Bluff Knoll, the highest peak in Western Australia, this weekend. He has a small army of people going along to support him. They’ll probably carry him if they need to. Greg’s held the thought of climbing this mountain since the moment he was first diagnosed. As the months and years rolled by, it seemed increasingly unlikely. He became wheelchair bound, then was on two crutches for a very long time. And then morphine, three times a day. When Greg wasn’t looking, I cried with my girlfriends and came to terms with what I needed to.

This year has been different. Just to be contrary, Greg planned The Servant to coincide with the month (June) when his time was supposed to be up. As it approached, he realised he wouldn’t make the deadline, another major surgery had gotten in the way. So he pushed it back to October. Rehearsals were often a worry as Greg struggled to stay focused and remember the parts. There were days when he was weak from chemo and his thinking fuzzy. He’d give us instructions and I could see the confusion among the cast as he didn’t always make perfect sense. Just quietly on the side, I’d get questions like, “do you really think we can pull this off? Do you think Greg can do it?” and I’d shrug and say, “What does it matter? It’s keeping him alive.”

As the months went by, I realised how true that was. And in the aftermath of the show, (which was a sellout success), part of me looks back and wonders how he did it. Was it the acupuncture and the energy healing and the chemotherapy and the generally amazing medical care that he’s received?

Or was it the potent combination of meditation and prayerful acceptance?

Maybe it’s been the total immersion in his creativity. Perhaps every cell in his body has been kept distracted – writing music, designing stage lighting, working on a script – they haven’t had time to get up to mischief and enact their devious plan to kill him from the inside.

And is he really going to climb a mountain this weekend?

I say to myself, “What does it matter? It’s keeping him alive :)”

Bluff Knoll, the highest peak in SW Australia

Comments 86

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      thanks so much Bonnie! It’s forecast for rain, so we’re going to be very wet 🙂 He’s undaunted!! I might have to stay in the lowlands…not sure if my knees and thighs can manage the punishment!!

  1. Malini what a touching story of true determination and will to live life to the fullest regardless of diagnosis. Your husband’s spirit shines. I admire your strength, courage and love for him, for for all that you are both going through. Sending love and healing light to both of you. Wishing him the strength to climb this mountain on the weekend. xoxoxo

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      Thank you sweetie, what kind and loving words. He certainly has a shining spirit. We laughingly call it ‘the new, cancer-improved Greg’ 🙂 He’s already climbed so many mountains, this one may prove easier than he thinks! Thank you for stopping by, Suzanne x

  2. Malini, thanks so much for sharing such a moving and personal story. I hope Greg has an amazing experience climbing Bluff Knoll this weekend… I’m not surprised he has an army of helpers going with him, he sounds like a very inspiring person. I’m sending you both much love, light and healing wishes and prayers! <3

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      Caroline, that is so very kind of you. Funny of deep adversity can bring out the best in us. Greg has suffered a great deal and is certainly inspiring a great many people. I thank you for your wishes and prayers, from the bottom of my heart. x

  3. I’m wiping tears having read your post. I am so inspired and touched. A true testament to the human soul and to the drive and determination behind living EACH moment to the fullest. I am touched to the deepest parts of my heart. Thank you so very much for sharing.

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  4. Malini,

    You’re pretty amazing yourself! Greg is lucky to have you. My prayers will be with you as you climb that mountain this weekend — and even more so on the 9th, when Greg gets that CT scan. Best of luck to you both!

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      We are both so grateful for your prayers and kind thoughts! And I’m especially grateful for the nice things you said about me 🙂 xxx

  5. He will climb Bluff Knoll. He will make it. He has the will and spirit that can conquer what many cannot. Deepest and sincere wishes to Greg’s journey. Love and admiration from Malaysia.

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  6. So beautifully written Malini. I can’t even find adequate words to respond to your post. You are both amazing beyond words. I intend to go to a beautiful lookout at a place called Fiesole here in Florence on Nov 4th and join in with all your prayers of gratitude and healing. Much love, Carol

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  7. Malini, this is such an incredible personal story your are sharing. Greg is a shining example of inspiration and spirit. My prayers go to you both on your mountain climb this week, and positive thoughts for a positive outcome on Nov 9th. Love from Canada.

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      Hello Leah from Canada! I’m so glad I shared this story. I think his a fantastic example of the power of using our creativity to strengthen the body. Let’s hope it’s effects are far reaching 🙂 thank you for stopping by. xx

  8. Totally in awe with tears in my eyes. Can’t even think, but to say totally in awe again! You are so eloquent and such a fabulous and loving partnership. Bless you, great swimmers of many currents, amazing depths and even heights. Thank You for sharing and inspiring, sending you both many prayers of wellness!

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      Lisa thank you so much for you kind words, tears and prayers 🙂 I feel your loving kindness reaching out to us across the miles all the way from Nashville! I love that you called me a “great swimmer” (beats being called a drowning rat!!). thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it. xxx

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  9. Beautiful words, that is the magic of creativity. “Maybe it’s been the total immersion in his creativity. Perhaps every cell in his body has been kept distracted…” I love this. I believe it.

    Thanks for sharing. June Maddox

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  10. What a great post ( I would say story, but it’s not a story , it’s your life .) I honour you for sharing, and I really honour your journey together. Ditto to what June says. Whatever makes us want to get out of bed in the morning and not go to bed at night is our magic. We owe it to ourselves to live our magic. I’m rooting for the two of you in your life experience.

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      Thank you so much, Sandy. It’s certainly been an interesting journey. Lots of potholes and broken glass on the road, but lots of daisies and butterflies too. All of you are the daisies and butterflies 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to share such warm and kind thoughts. xx

  11. Malini, you might not be standing with me at the top of that mountain – heck, I might not be standing with me at the top of that mountain 😉 – but we climbed it together.

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      Hello Distant Relative! It’s been a somewhat long, hard, painful climb, don’t you think ?!
      (and you’re not supposed to tell anyone that I’m not going to be standing at the top of the mountain!!)

  12. Thanks Malini for for your generosity in sharing your intimate feelings…What a life journey so far!

    As for dear Greg, he’s already climbed a much higher mountain… We look from down below with admiration>

    Love and prayers,

    Riadh and Rose

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      Riadh, you and Rose have scaled many, many more mountains, you just don’t announce your seriously amazing feats to the world! Dear friend, thank you so much for being so loving and kind to us, for so many, many years. much love to you both.

  13. Wow, Malini. This is just amazing. You and your husband are amazing. This brought me to tears. Please follow up after the mountain climb!! Sending loads of warm thoughts, wishes and dreams.

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      Hello Stephanie! Greg is always surprising everyone, he’s the amazing one. I just try to keep up 🙂 Your beautiful message is appreciated and gone straight to my heart 🙂

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      Yay! Happy Birthday Bro! May you enjoy many mountain climbs, physical or otherwise, in the year ahead 🙂 I’m sorry you won’t be with us too.

  14. Amazing!! It’s true when we are living in our fullest creative potential we are the most alive and cancer or anything else can’t win. I wish you and your husband joy in each and every moment..it is all ANY of us have. xo a fellow flyer.

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      How true, Andrea – this moment is all we have. I’m learning more and more about how to live it fully. Still a long way to go on the journey… and I’m full of gratitude for such beautiful companions all around the world. Thank you for stopping by my world in Western Australia, all the way from North Carolina 🙂 xx

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      Thanks sweetie 🙂 I’m not at all really. Life forces us in directions we wouldn’t normally take. Most of the time I’d much rather curl up under my doona with a snack and a good book!! xx

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      It always warms my heart when I see a comment from you 🙂 Thank you so much for the loveliness. And for getting me here! x

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      Wendy – you should see us being decidedly UN-divine 99% of the time 🙂 thank you for stopping by and for always being so kind!

  15. Hi Malini,
    if I knew nothing more about your remarkable adventures, the love and respect with which you are both, your entire family, is held by so many would be enough to know how luminous the journey has been for you, for us, for us all.

    Life is not about finding sweet biscuits, but about responding to all the challenges and opportunities that arise, and enriching our lives by the manner of our response. It is what it is what it is what it is.

    We have all learned a great deal and grown a little more resilient, compassionate and reliant on divine grace as spectators to, and occasional participants in your response.

    Sorry I can’t be with you up Bluff Knoll, but think of me when the wind whistles across your ears as I will have you all in thought and prayer in equal measure of gratitude and protection.

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      Charlie, what can I say? Just the other day I was remarking to Greg how it touched my heart every time you would pull me aside at rehearsals and ask me, so kindly, how I was doing. You are a gorgeous friend and we are so honoured to know you and Sholeh. big hugs !

  16. Malini and Greg, I think that you are a living proof of what powers we have within and what we can live through if we believe in ourselves! Keep on doing what you are doing and make sure you spread it to other people. We need more people like you in the world!
    Love Jenny

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      Jenny that is so sweet of you! That you would even say that shows that the world really needs more people like YOU 🙂 I hope we get to meet in person one day, and thank you for your warm words x

  17. This guy of yours is amazing and he has an amazing wife/friend/mentor/soul mate. This inner determination, creativity and strength which you both obviously have, has not only kept him alive, but given him a purpose to live and strive for. The love you feel for him is so apparent – what a lovely person you must be. I know we’d be friends if we met…..

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      Hello Almeta! I’m not that lovely, I just sound good in theory! In real life I’m struggling and grumpy and I hate cooking and putting away the washing and I never know what I’m going to cook for dinner!! Your art is so beautiful, Almeta… and let’s be friends right now, so we don’t wait til we meet 🙂

  18. What an awe inspiring and yet very humble story told about someone, by the person in this life who obviously and openly respects, admires and travels with him. How wonderful that you both have managed to find each other in this big funny world and travel together on your journey. My thoughts will be with you this weekend as you climb your mountain and make it yours, and on the 9th Greg I will think of you and Malini both and wish all is well and your positive, fighting nature has chased all of the bad away.

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      Kind thoughts, Marilyn, thank you. It’s a funny old world how we are placed together with people who help teach us the most! I mentioned just today to Greg that he’s lucky to have me with him as I’ll always be there to give him a kick up his backside when he needs it 🙂

      thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, I appreciate it. xx

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      For me, not even once! I’m only doing the first few hundred metres and then I “have to” babysit little Leah. Well someone needed to sacrifice the climb to look after the little girl 🙂

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  19. Thank you for sharing your story. Love is everything and this shines through in your story.
    You are both testament to the part of the human spirt we should all cultivate but to many neglect.
    You are both amazing!
    Big hugs to you both.

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      Not so amazing, just getting through each day and leaning on lots of kind friends and rellies along the way. Often tired and worn out!! Greg’s attitude has been pretty amazing 🙂 Big big tests, big big growth for all of us. Thanks for your kind words, Phyllis.

  20. Thanks Malani, this made me tearful and happy at the same time. I have missed being with the choir and I am glad the Servant was a success. Thinking and praying for you and your family from afar……..

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      Hey Ralph, great to hear from you and thank you for staying in touch! Your prayers are appreciated and you can re-join the choir ANY day 🙂

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      So true, Janet. Miracles happen all the time. I think we fail to notice most of them 🙂 I’m trying to be more alert, so I don’t miss anything! Thank you for your kind comment, Janet.

  21. Thank you for sharing. Very heartfelt read.
    . Sometimes, certain challenges and obstacles are placed in our lives, to enable us to learn from it and to share this new knowledge with others in the same plight. You are a light Malina, keep shining.

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      Thank you so much, Teresa. I totally agree. Adversity is our biggest teacher, and when we’re really fortunate, we can help others in some small way and share what we’ve learned. I’m sure your light is very bright, thanks for shining it my way 🙂

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  22. Wow Mal! You captured it all! As one of those who were inclined to doubt, but also knew that such determination was sure to be rewarded, it is so amazing to look back at all those mountains scaled, even in the last few months. The Bluff aint nothing! Like so many others I will be praying from afar. (interesting that your last two posts were on climbing mountains!!). Padz

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      Yes, apparently mountains are on my mind! The first and last men in my life have both been engaging in some amazing feats, so I guess it was bound to find it’s way into my writing!! However, there was that post in between about art 🙂

      We’ve all been scaling some fancy peaks in the past few years, don’t you think?! And everywhere I look, there are loved ones engaging in such brave battles. Heroes all around us.

  23. Hi Mal, what a beautifully written story, as always.
    My heart has been touched by the love you both have for us all, and the courage you have both shown, flying in the face of sheer adversity- many would have crumbled faced with such an immense sequence of tests!
    So Bluff knoll is looming…should be just another walk in the park!
    Greg will be propelled up that mountain on the wings of prayer, I know all of your dear ones will be saying lots of them on Sunday morning!

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      Wow, Maggie, your comment is so eloquent and beautiful, thank you! Believe me, there has been PLENTY of crumbling 🙂 your love and prayers are so gratefully received, you are such a GORGEOUS lady!

  24. I’ve lost count of how many times you have made me cry Mal! So much so that I’ve decided you guys need one of those combo celebrity names like brad Pitt & angelina jolie are known as brangelina. So here are my selection…..take your pick – gregal, maleg, gremalini! (I know my fav!!) The meaning of all of these names is ‘angels.’ You two continue to be a huge source of inspiration & joy to me. Now & forever. Xx

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  25. What an inspiring story! Your husband is amazing (and you are too!). These are rough, tough times you two are going through but I sense the love, the hope, the courage that is shining through you both.

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      Jocelyn, thank you. Greg has been quite amazing (although after reading a few of these comments, he’s starting to feel a bit overwhelmed – for the first time ever!). Sometimes I just feel so blessed that I am constantly being pushed to find more love, hope and courage, as my natural instinct is to be a total blob and lie around reading, snacking and chatting with friends 🙂 Thank goodness for life’s challenges!!

  26. Your story moved me on so many levels, Malini. I am in awe of what you and Greg have both managed to accomplish. My thoughts will be with you every step of the climb this week end. Thank you for providing me with such inspiration.

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      I’m starting to realise the incredible signficance of this climb, as I had no idea that it would affect so many hearts. Sophie, thank you for taking the time to share our journey 🙂

  27. Wow Malini,
    The strength I got from this emotional, spiritual , meaningful, witness to how you and your husband have gone through so much. I was so moved and inspired to make a difference and remember people are going through much more than myself or some family members that are in my life. I will forward this link to them as they will be inspired to know that we all can make a difference in our own life’s. Thank you so very much for telling all who read this endearing message.
    Sincerely,
    Bonnie Pleasants

    1. Bonnie I am so touched that what I shared had such resonance for you. Life is a series of mountains, and it’s people such as yourself that make the climb a little easier 🙂

  28. Stories you write sooo eloquent! So happy for both of you. Best of luck for today – hope scans go really, REALLY well (I’ll just tell God he has to look after you both as I’m closer to getting somewhere there, thanyou guys – I hope!)
    Still dunno how he managed it to the top -even with one good leg, as some of those steps were very high (I know!!!)
    Just so glad he nmade it, but now he has a new challenge or two to work on, whatever they may be. And hopefully, both of you, with ALL your challenges will make it through a lot more years.
    much love

  29. Malini, Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m sitting here, in Luxembourg, in my painting room, obsessed with my paintings…silly little details etc..
    I have not had any relatives or friends affected in their essence like you and your husband have been….and I have no words to help you…
    I have no idea how life can change so much, you are brave, and so is your husband, and I hope with all my heart that things will be easier for you in future, i feel compassion, it is so easy to write this, so many miles away from your problems. Very best wishes to you both, Dominique.

    1. Hello Dominique — all the way from Luxembourg, I am touched by your compassion and loving thoughts! My problems are nothing, really 🙂 There are people with far bigger ‘mountains’ to climb. I’ve really been learning that love, in the end, (and the beginning) is all that really matters. For me, that is the most valuable lesson, and I am grateful to be learning it! Thank you for stopping by from the other side of the world x

  30. As I read these words, I just get goosebumps all over. You guys are so very inspiring and have such great inner strength and determination. This is the way we should all live. A very wise message for us all to take away, ponder, and live by, daily. Thank-you beautiful xxx

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