Letter from Arthur to his sister Margaret, giving her the "bad news", 2 June 1906
[No original available]
June 2, 1906.
Egerton House, Berkhamsted.
[but written from 12, Beaumont Street]
I am sorry to say that I have bad news. The swelling in my face turns out on investigation not to be an abscess as was hoped but a growth. It is a very serious kind, called sarcoma, and requires a grave operation. The operation itself, though not free from risk, is not very dangerous. The percentage of deaths by statistics is about 6 or 7, and my surgeon, Roughton, has never lost a patient under it. I am afraid it means removing half the upper jaw and palate. They cannot tell yet whether there is a risk of recurrence elsewhere. Rendel says that Roughton is the best man in London for a job of this sort. We are going to have a consultation with an eminent expert on Tuesday morning, but Roughton says that he has no doubt of his diagnosis. The operation will follow on Thursday or Friday.
I have thought it best to tell you all these horrible details, dear Margaret. It is a familiar enough situation in books and in the case of other people, but in one’s own case it is unfamiliar and rather horrible. Poor Sylvia! I have told her everything except the name of the disease and the details of the operation. She is brave and infinitely kind and dear. After the operation I shall be incapacitated for about six weeks, and unable to speak properly for three or four months – and there will always be an impediment in my speech. I think of our future and the boys.
We shall be very glad if you will come up on Monday and help us through this trying time – to me “glad life’s arrears of pain, darkness and toil.” My 43 years, and especially the last 14, leaves me no ground of complaint as to my life. But this needs fortitude. We both try our best.
My love to Father.
Your affect. brother,
Sarcoma is a technical term for one of the characteristic manifestations of cancer.
I don’t think it is either necessary or desirable for me to make any comment on this letter.
The fullness and frequency of his subsequent letters is to me almost beyond comprehension, but I think it must have been a relief and a satisfaction to him to have a sister to whom he could write so freely of what was in his mind, and a father also in whom, though now 80 years old, he could still confide.
“Glad life’s arrears,” etc. is quoted from Browning’s “Prospice”.
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