Emotional Storm

March 12, 2008

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I watched a television programme recently about Irish patients with cancer. Any journey with cancer is an emotional roller coaster and this programme was no exception. My emotions were completely raw by the time it was over. One particular scene strongly resonated with me and brought back a memory I’d completely forgotten about.

The programme did not make for easy viewing. If you had recently been diagnosed with cancer or had suffered a bereavement, I would imagine it must have been very difficult to watch. We were not spared the stark reality of cancer. One fine lady with a wonderfully positive outlook on life, was given the news that she had advanced terminal cancer which was inoperable. She amazed me in the way she took this terrible news totally in her stride. She died a few short months later. We watched another elderly man who had been diagnosed with rectal cancer, undergo pre-operative radiotherapy and chemotherapy to shrink the tumour before surgery could proceed. Thankfully in his case, his operation was totally successful and no further treatment was required. It was his return home that resonated with me. As I watched him sit down in his favourite armchair while his wife went to put the kettle on, I witnessed him experience the realisation of how good it felt to be finally safely home.

When I returned by air last year following complex surgery in the UK, I will never forget the emotional storm which took me completely by surprise as the wheels of the plane touched down. I’m not particularly patriotic about my country of birth but on this occasion I was never so glad to be back in Ireland. In preparation for the surgery, I had put meticulous plans in place so that life would run as smoothly as possible during my absence from home. Any thoughts on the experience that lay ahead never went further than hoping for a successful outcome to the surgery. It was a particularly risky operation but all went well thanks to the expertise of the surgeon involved. My post-op stay in the NHS hospital also went smoothly and before I knew it, the day arrived when I had to make the long journey home. Unfortunately, I became unwell on the way from the hospital to the airport and had to be wheelchair boarded on to the plane. This experience taught me a great deal about the difficulties faced by disabled people in dealing with the ignorance of those lucky enough to be able bodied. I found the flight home exhausting and it was a relief to see the night-time landing lights come into view. As the plane touched down, I was overcome with emotion and burst into tears. I think at that moment I had the same realisation that the elderly man with cancer had experienced. I’d been able to plan ahead for most eventualities but the one thing I hadn’t contemplated, was the enormity of the relief to have survived the ordeal. I can’t tell you how good it felt to be home.


Up Yours!

August 27, 2007

It’s come to that. There’s only so long people can wait for help when their lives are on the line.

It’s been well-documented over recent years that Co Donegal has a raw deal when it comes to cancer services. There are unacceptably long delays for cancer screening in the region and patients who have had surgery, have to travel long distances to access chemotherapy and radiotherapy services. As you can imagine, this places a huge strain physically, emotionally and financially on the patients, and their families. It’s wrong and it shouldn’t be happening. The HSE is well aware of the deficiencies in the system but has failed to take action.

Well, Donegal has got fed-up waiting. A not-for-profit organization, the North West Wellness Committee (a voluntary group), has set about correcting the problem themselves. Through voluntary fund-raising, they plan to buy a breast-screening machine and hope “to have breast screening available to women in Co Donegal as early as next spring. It then aims to build a community cancer clinic within three years and has already had an 11 acre site donated for the purpose. All funds will be raised voluntarily and any profits made will be re-invested back into the cancer services”.

Now that’s what I call efficiency. This group could teach the HSE a thing or two about not-for-profit health care. The HSE should hang their heads in shame and they deserve to have their faces rubbed in it.

Only, please remember to wash your hands afterwards!


Surviving Breast Cancer

May 16, 2007

Have a look at One Breast Less an everyday story of breast cancer to witness first hand the impact that breast cancer can have on family life. This blog was shortlisted for the 2007 Irish Blog Awards. It’s a wonderfully honest and candid insight into ‘living with cancer’ and ‘surviving’ the Irish health service.