“Do not judge my story by the chapter you walked in on” – Unknown
The 8th of December is a special day for me in many ways. It is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so as a practising Catholic, it’s a big day. It’s a day off from work and a day to participate in the celebration of the Eucharist. Mary is quite a woman and someone to whom I have a strong devotion. I believe that she was with me during the trials of my transplant ……
Getting back to the 8th of December, and specifically to 8th December 2006. I was on a day off from work. I was feeling ok. I was sitting on the couch mid morning when my phone rang. It was Bishop Larry Forristal, the then Bishop of Ossory (Kilkenny). He was phoning to thank me for a memorial card I had sent on to him but then he said something which made me sit up a bit straighter: “Brenda, I’m worried about you”. Now that wasn’t the call I was expecting – not when someone like him should have been really busy with Feast of the Assumption of BVM Masses. But he had taken the time to call. He went on to tell me that he was worried because of what he saw in me the day before. He had been in Maynooth for the General Meeting of Bishops. At the time I was so taken aback, I did not have time to think ‘Jeepers he’s brave commenting on how I am looking!’. He moved on quickly before those thoughts came into a thought bubble over my head. “Brenda”, he said, “You are looking unwell, are you ok?” ‘I am’, I said. “Are you sure?”, came the reply. “You are important to us”, he said, “but you are even more important to your family. Are you really well?”
I told him I had a cold and a few other little doses. He assured me of his prayers and parted by asking me to look after myself. About an hour later I started vomiting and feeling really ill.
A part of me was wondering if he had jinxed me but I knew that wasn’t the case.
I realise now that he had seen something in me that I could not see in myself. He had seen the beginning of the effects of the cancer taking hold.
Any of you who have been following this blog know the story from here. I spent the rest of that weekend feeling ill and vomiting and eventually gave in and went to the doctor who gave me some anti-sickness meds and some stomach tablets to ease my discomfort. What no one knew at the time was the reason I was being sick. I was in kidney failure and I was poisoning myself from the inside because my kidneys were not doing their job anymore.
I had an entirely miserable month of December (2006). It’s strange to be able to pin-point the exact moment and date that I first became ill. The 8th of December 2006 was the day and about 11am in the morning was the time.
I find myself sitting in Starbucks in Dublin on the 8th December 2015 – nine years later. Yes NINE YEARS!
Living with an illness can become all about dates and anniversaries of good and bad news. I have been notching up the dates and the years associated with my illness and today I can notch up the first 9 associated with my illness. It is NINE years today since I first became ill. It feels good to type and to say NINE YEARS.
I am well at the moment. I do have one more hospital appointment this week which will hopefully be the last one this year. I am incredibly lucky to be here – no I don’t mean here in Starbucks. I mean HERE. I mean ALIVE. I mean WELL.
I was listening to an interview on the Tubridy Show yesterday morning with a woman who was recently diagnosed with cancer. The woman being interviewed is Emily Hourican. As I sat listening I had flash-backs to all of the emotions that she was describing and how she was feeling annoyed with herself for being presumptuous about life and other things. I know those feelings so well. She was talking about having to tell her kids about the cancer and hating the idea that they describe her as being ill. That’s tough.
Anyway, here is little old me notching up 9 year’s of living with a cancer that possibly should have and indeed could still kill me. We can’t ever say it’s gone for good because the reality is that it is lurking around the corner all the time.
But as I notch up the number nine in years of living with this I am grateful to have been given the chance to put so much life into these last nine years. I am grateful for all the memories made and the mischief managed in the past nine years. I am grateful to be feeling well as we approach Christmas, my most favourite time of the year. I am grateful to all those who love me and who have stood with me – especially my husband Bryan to whom I will be married for 20 years on 29 December next.
I have said this before and I will say it again:
We all take things in our lives for granted – time being one of them. We assume a path in life that includes growing old with the ones we love. As a result of my cancer diagnosis almost nine year’s ago, I knew that I would never take time for granted again. Because of my cancer diagnosis, time is the thing I find myself most grateful for.