I debated with myself for a long time about why I would write this blog. The reality is to highlight an important thing a doctor said to me this time last year in St. Luke’s Oncology Radiation Network, while I had my daily radiotherapy on a rare cancerous tumour in my leg…
we save more people nowadays than we lose
The doctor told me this in the context of my confession that I hadn’t even told some of my extended family, my friends or colleagues that I had cancer, and I was still working full time trying to process what I was going through. She told me not to be afraid to keep my everyday life routine going because it would bolster me for when I emerged out the other side. Ok, the good news is that after radiotherapy and surgery I am cancer free. I had joined a club I never wanted to be part of that has utterly changed me forever – for the better. Every day I delight in small wonders of life around me. My heart bursts with gratitude for the amazing HSE heroes I met who glided me through 150 visits to three main hospitals in the middle of Covid. I took foot selfies every time I went (at one stage up to three times a day – often in different hospitals). Before long I had over 200 foot selfies. I called the personal project ‘Putting One Foot in Front of the Other’.
How could these incredible people keep doing what they did for me and thousands of others in the middle of this pandemic? The care, the warmth, the empathy, the humour. Don’t get me started on the inspirational ways they managed in the immediate aftermath of the cyber attack.
My main surgery was scheduled for the week after the cyber attack and I cried for about five hours listening to the news that surgeries would be cancelled, before receiving the oncology nurse phone call to go through my pre-surgery Covid-questionnaire. I told her I thought it would be cancelled, and she joked with me that luckily it wasn’t a computer that would be operating on my leg, but skilled human hands…
I feel so lucky. Lucky to have been diagnosed so quickly. Lucky to have been under the care of Professor Gary O’Toole and his teams across Cappagh, St. Lukes and St Vincent’s Hospitals. Lucky that my family aka ‘Fam Sandwich’ were awesome at minding me and feeding me when I couldn’t walk. Lucky to work with kind people who supported my recovery. Lucky to be in a system which will scan me for the rest of my life. Lucky to now be able to laugh about my ‘shark bite’ out of my leg (remember that scene in Jaws where Hooper and Quint share their leg scars and raise a toast to drink to their legs?). So that’s why I am sharing this.
On Daffodil Day remember those HSE heroes who glide people like me through care while under enormous pressure. Remember those human hands that do extremely skilled surgery. Remember the Irish Cancer Society whose helpline and information eases the fear for so many. Remember the family and friends who prop us up when we can’t do it for ourselves. And donate to the Irish Cancer Society if you can.