By John Foskett
Norma Veronica Malins was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early sixties. Terrified by the thoughts that she would not live very long, she set out on a quest to save enough money to go visit her brother and his family in California. She bought a giant money tin can with a coin slot in the top which could only be opened with a can opener. Things were going slowly for she had very little to save from her meager pension.
She saw an ad in the local paper:
“Five Hundred Pounds Cash! To anyone who can last 10 rounds with the ‘Notorious Kemo Rage’.”
Norma entered the contest which was held at the Liverpool Stadium.
Norma fought hard. She went ten rounds with the dirty fighting prize fighter, Kemo Rage, who is renowned for hitting below the belt. He decreed that he would finish her in the fourth round by holding up his glove whilst inciting the crowd to chant, ‘ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!’ Then pointing to his bloodied opponent yelled, ‘Out the Door in Number Four!’”
By the end of the sixth, the tired woman was almost beaten, but mercifully the referee stepped in to break them apart. She sat on her stool while Kemo pranced around the stage exhorting the crowd to boo and mock his tired opponent. As she sat there beaten and afraid, she thought that this would be her last round, and further, that she would never get out of that arena of death.
Norma fought the entire fight alone — no seconds, no stool, no water, not even a towel to mop her brow.
Kemo Rage had handlers who fanned him to keep him cool. He had lots of ringside supporters and plenty of nice, cool, clear water.
All victims of cancer know this scene very well, and even though, this writer uses a boxing metaphor in an attempt to even come close to imagining the real agony they all suffer, the story is best told by them, not us.
Notes from a diary kept by Norma Veronica Malins:
“September 28th Finally pain free, no more surgery, infection free, and I feel positive about chemo. Can’t wait to see my grandchildren, Leon and Lolo.Sept. 29t h Reflex at the Royal Hospital today.Sept. 30th Off to London town, longing to see the grandkids.
October 1st My daughter, Sharon is in HER 8th day of chemo, but she looks fantastic.
Oct. 2nd Lovely day today. I still can’t believe Sharon looks so good.
Oct. 3rd Another lovely day.
Oct. 4th Even better today.
Oct. 5th A crazy day with the family.
Oct. 6th Back home, a terrible trip.
Oct. 7th Reflexology today.
Oct. 8th Trying to be positive about Chemo.
Oct. 9th First Chemo. Terribly scared.
Oct. 10th Crippling insomnia.
Oct. 11th Insomnia but no sickness.
Oct. 12th Bowel pains and insomnia.
Oct. 13th. Saw doctor today. I look good and feel fantastic.
Oct. 14th Reflexology. ( foot massage)
Oct. 15th Went to see my friend, Molly, and her husband, Christo.
They prepared a lovely meal.
Oct 16th Me with the District Nurse, sweet lady, I feel blessed.
Oct. 17th “Pump Up the Volume” my little grim humor joke for the temporary implant that had to be filled with refilled fluid periodically during Chemo.
Oct. 18th Spent the day with my favorite grandniece Amber. I am feeling OK.
Oct. 19th Lazy day , sore throat is doing my head in.
Oct. 20th Went to the Linda McCartney Center for reflexology treatment, absolutely brilliant.
Oct. 21st The freezer broke down. I did not get stressed out about it and I went out to look at wigs.
Oct. 22rd Throat still bloody sore bet feel good.
Oct. 23 My hair starting to fall, soonest gone, sooner to return.
Oct 27th. Just found out that my daughter and her family are coming to visit me. I am over the moon.
Oct 28th Got spoiled rotten today, had a lovely meal at the royal Albert Dock in Liverpool.
Oct 29th The second dreaded Chemo, at least my daughter will be there with me.
Oct 31st My daughter came to visit, but was not able to bring herself to be with me for the treatment. She has been through it herself and did not want to see it again. It broke my heart and I cried all day. I did not speak to her for three weeks.
November 1st Amber is here today and I am still tearful.
Nov. 2nd I am so broken hearted. Thank God for Michelle, Phil, and Simon.
Nov. 3rd Counseling at the Sunflower Center, heavy stuff.
Nov. 4th Head strong, met Glynnis, counselor, Maria.
Nov. 5th Riverside, 10 a.m., cancelled, head massage.
Nov. 6th District Nurse, Sunflower Center, came home early, not too well.
Nov. 7th “Pump Up the Volume”—don’t feel up to it, but I will go to choir at Sunflower’s.
Nov. 8th Denize is coming, D & G, woke up at 3 a.m., insomnia awful.
Nov. 10th Ann Mockford, 10 a.m., Sunflower’s.
Nov. 11th Ria, 12-15, very important!
Nov. 12th Ladies’ Night at Sunflower’s – I can’t wait! Facial, 2:00.
Nov. 17th Feet reflexology.
Nov. 18th Pay Day!
Nov. 19th Dentist ring up.
Nov. 20th Chemo Day – Here we go again. I’m going alone.”
Kemo Rage has now punched himself out. Even though Norma is beaten up, she has a determined look on her face. Kemo tries his best to strike her again but cannot lift his arms. The crowd boos him relentlessly and cheers wildly as Norma stands up and slowly raises her arms in triumph.
The prize was paid to number in British two-pound coins. She counted each one carefully in front of the crowd, but mostly for the benefit of Kemo Rage, who was now incapacitated and powerless.
Norma bought a ticket on the first flight out and was soon basking in the warm glow of her family in the “Magical Kingdom by the Sea”.
All too soon she returned to Liverpool. A great bittersweet blanket has fallen on us all. We miss her so very much.