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The pouch of Douglas

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Early in 2014, journalist and media teacher Tracy Sorensen was diagnosed with Stage IIIc primary peritoneal carcinoma. She was treated with chemotherapy and radical debulking surgery, and is now in remission and writing about the experience. This is an extract from a longer work in progress. A version of this work was first published on her website, The Squawkin’ Galah (http://squawkingalah.com.au), on 23 October 2014.

The pouch of Douglas is a small area in the female human body between the uterus and the rectum. It has a name and a shape, but the essence of it, the point of it, is that it is a piece of nothing. The territory of the pouch of Douglas is infinitesimal; because when all is well, the surrounding organs slide against each other like two slugs in a mating dance. The pouch of Douglas, like the pouch of a mother kangaroo or a coin purse, can expand to accommodate growing or multiplying things.

The pouch takes its name from Dr James Douglas, an 18th century Scottish man-midwife who wrote anatomical treatises and held public dissections in his own house. In 1726, a woman by the name of Mary Toft, who lived in Surrey, England, announced that she had given birth to baby rabbits. Her local doctor was astonished and ran off to let everyone know. She had been in normal labour, he said, with regular contractions. And then appeared the baby rabbits. The woman enjoyed…