And Then There’s…

“I want my love, my joy, my laugh, my smile, my needs
Not in the star signs
Or the palm that she reads
I want my sun-drenched, wind-swept Ingrid Bergman kiss
Not in the next life
I want it in this
I want it in this”

Rotheray / Heaton

What a wonderfully weird week I’m having !

At the beginning of the week, often called Monday, my Soulmate and I had steeled ourselves to tell my radiation oncologist that we had decided against his earlier proposal of 6 weeks of radiation, hormone blockers, and , worst of all, compression stockings.

As it turned out, he’d changed his mind since our meeting a few weeks ago, and after a conference with my other consultant, had decided that perhaps, due to my PSA score staying very, very low, that we’d just monitor it every four months or so. This is what my other consultant, the wonderfully erudite and agrarian Miss Little, had suggested at our last meeting with her.  

My wandering son Jake asked me afterwards what did I think had changed his mind.

“I reckon Miss Little softened his cough.” I replied.

As we travelled back to the True Centre Of The Universe, aka Monaghan, there were large periods of silence. I think we were both still a little in shock.

Are we normal people again ?

Do we dare hope ?

For 15 months or so we’ve travelled the road to Beaumont Hospital so often for appointments, tests, CT scans, x-rays, chemolympics, and operations that we could drive there blindfolded. And now it’ll only be every 4 months or so.

What’ll we do ???

Go on adventures !

On Tuesday we journeyed back to Dublin for my graduation from Trinity, which had been delayed a wee bit by that Lurgy pandemic. A few evenings beforehand my Soulmate had asked me to try on the tuxedo I’d bought in Wilsons 4 years ago for the Monaghan Business awards, and hadn’t worn since.

“It’ll be grand.” I said, not wanting to tear myself away from the fire I’d lit, the lovely Rioja I was drinking and the movie I was watching , and change out of my lovely pyjamas.

“What movie ?”

Well ,, it was White Noise, starring Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig and Don Cheadle. I loved it! But it’s one of those movies that some people love and most people hate. I’m one of the weird ones.

“What Pyjamas ??”

Why ,, they would be my fantabulous Radiohead pyjamas.

Anyway, I harrumphed up the stairs and tried on the jacket, which was a bit tighter than I’d remembered, but it was a slim fit Remus Uomo and I was probably codding myself a bit at the time, but no one would be expecting me to fasten the buttons , and I’d be wearing the conferring gown over it.

‘It’s grand’ I shouted down to my Soulmate.

“Let me see.”

I harrumphed again, as this meant I’d have to put on the trousers as well. This went OK …until I tried to zip them up. I thought that the zip was just stuck, but then realised that there was no way that the button was going to fasten, because it wasn’t within shouting distance of the buttonhole on the other side. I immediately smiled to myself assuming that I’d given a lend of the suit to Jake at some point and that he’d given it back with his trousers instead.

But no, they were my trousers, or rather, they were the trousers of the 4 year ago me who could fit into a Remus Uomo suit.

I hopped down the stairs, one hand trying to hold the jacket  closed, and the other , with my small finger through the button hole and  the others holding on to the button.

She looked at me, lovingly I thought at first, but then realised she was trying to stop herself laughing, and said “Wilsons in the morning, before the hospital !”

As I hobbled away I could hear her laughing through the cushion she was crying into.

The next day we went into Wilsons , initially to hire a tuxedo, but they don’t do that anymore, so we said we’d look at some suits upstairs. Robert greeted us and we quickly explained what we were after. Robert saw me looking wistfully at the lovely , skinny Remus suits but professionally convinced me that a plain black suit would work better and asked if he could take my measurements. I explained that I had a stoma and been through the wars a bit.

He measured my waist and simply said “Mmmm”.

Then he measured my chest, and said “Perfect ! You have a six inch drop between your torso and waist, the perfect body shape.”

So, I still fit a 42” ?

“No, you’re a good 44”, and anyway that’s just something we say, there is no perfect bodyshape.” And with that he went off into the back of the backroom to see if he could find something suitable. He was gone some time.

But back he came , with a lovely black suit. And do you know the loveliest thing about it ? It fitted ! I could do up the zip…AND close the buttons !

He sold us a shirt and a rather dandy dickie bow to go with it and then asked if we needed shoes, and that he had some ideal black  ones that were perfect for it.

“No thanks “ I said.

“You wouldn’t guess , in a million years, what shoes he plans to wear with it.” My Soulmate added helpfully.

“Let me guess” He said. ”White Converse, like Paul McCartney ?”

“No ! He’s wearing a furry blue and purple Monsters Inc pair of Adidas.”

Robert just looked at us, silently handed me the suit bag , and looked sympathetically at herself.

So on Tuesday we went back to Dublin and my Soulmate in a gorgeous LBD, and me in my new suit with the zip that zips and the buttons that button, and my Monsters Inc Adidas Stan Smiths, made our way to the front square of Trinity. We quickly bumped into Noelle and Lynda, two of my favouritest classmates, who were already wearing their cap and gowns. We chatted for a bit and I then went and got mine. “I love your shoes !” said the nice lady handing out the gowns. “Thanks !” I beamed back.

By the time I got back outside Seamus and Aoife, another two of my favouritests, had joined the girls and we all hugged and beamed at each other. It was surreal to be back together again. We were just missing Anne now to complete the gang.

As we bumped into other classmates and swapped stories ,and introduced better halves, time was ticking on, and there was still no sign of Anne. Eventually, as we made our way to the Public Theatre we saw her, posing for photos, with her personal photographer. She screamed as soon as she saw us and we ran and gave her a hug. God it was good to see her !

Karl, our course mentor, turned up to say hello and wish us well.

We went in and sat down in this glorious old hall where Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, Swift, Niall Crawley, Mary Robinson, Beckett, Synge Robert Fisk,McAleese, Mary Kate O’Harte, Hozier, Lenny Abrahamson, Aisling Bea, and now us, sat exams and graduated.

The Registrar, Mr.Neville Cox, the registrar of an actual educational institution, gave a heart-warming and genuine speech about how great we all were, and we all agreed. He’s a nice chap that Neville. He made us feel like this was our place…. but that we had to be out by 5.

They started calling our names “Peter Baxter, Kayla…..” It’s real, this is us, somone, this guy , the Registrar of an actual educational institution is calling our names to come up and take a bow.

Me ? Me ? A Swan ?

“Paul Bond..” G’wan !!!!

I remember clapping furiously after that for almost an hour and beaming from ear to ear, as Deborah, Seamus, Colm, Denis, Noelle, Nollaig, Merritta, Lynda Trish, Liz, Margaret , Jade, Patricia, Kathleen, Susie, Martin, Aisling, Miriam ,Aoife, Peter, Kayla, Nancy, Anne, Angela, and all the gang took their turns to be acknowledged and to witness how much they all meant to the rest of us.

My fellow chemolympian Denise, was looking down on us. It was definitely a sunshine and lollipops kind of day. Her son Conor was invited up to take her bow for her , and received a standing ovation, which, I think may have loosened some of the plaster, as something definitely got in my eye.

We then got to parade out of the theatre , across the front square, two by two, to gather on the church steps for our group photo.

After that we gathered in Tangent, which is Trinity’s business school , for a wine reception , where again, Daniel Rogers, the Head of Education , told us how important we were, how special our class had been, that it was up to us now to be an inspiration to others , and that, above all we were beacons of hope. But  seriously, we had to be gone by 5.

We left and went to The Ivy, yes , I know,, very ‘Fancy Dan’ altogether !

There were 12 of us , and we had mighty craic, fantastic food, and almost reached double figures in the wine stakes.

In all the time we were doing the course together, we never actually had the chance to have a meal together, and yet , here we were, the best of friends, chatting away with partners we’d never met, and you could tell that we’d all clearly made a huge impression on each other, as our partners already knew who we all were…foibles and all.

Anne had steak tartar – I have a photograph.

Sorry, just felt that we all needed to know that.

The Ivy eventually either refused to serve us anymore wine, or we’d drunk all of that particular wine that they had, which was Don David Malbec, which I heartily recommend. We sauntered down to the Lincoln Inn, for ‘one’ which ended up being several. At this point all I remember is laughing a lot, something about life size angels in Nollaig and Fionnuala’s garden, organising a pop up Gaeltacht in Rossmore Park with Seamus, Anne’s new show ‘Klu Clutch Anne and Her Trans Van’, and my Soulmate’s quote of the day :

“It’s a privilege to grow old.”

It was that kind of night.

Wednesday was spent recovering from Tuesday.

And today, which is now your yesterday , Thursday, I went to see my ‘ologist, Anne, for a treatment.

“What’s brought you here today ?” She asked trying nicely to determine what she could help me with.

“I don’t know, but I always feel better just from having been here.”

I had a treatment during which we discussed sugar, mostly how bad it was for you, and water consumption.

“You should be taking at least a litre a day. Are you ?”

Does tea count ?

“No !”

Then no. Does red wine count ?

“Paul ! Do you have any idea how much sugar is in a glass of wine ?”

A delicious amount ?

She smiled and quietly offered up a prayer for my Soulmate.

I left Anne and met Ray for our 5K training run/walk/waddle.

I told him that Monday’s good news had in a funny way now left a bit of a void. Up until Monday my cancer journey had always been ‘there’, even when I was doing other things, it was ‘there’ in the background. If anyone asked me to do anything, go anywhere, even the simplest of things, I had to stop for a second and think, ‘Do I have a hospital appointment/scan ?’ or, ‘Will I be able to ?’ or  ‘Will I be well enough ?’

And now it’s not ‘there’. Now there’s hope.

Ray stopped me.

“You know what this means ?”

What ?

“We’re actually going to have to run in the fucking  Dublin Marathon in October  ?!?”

Bugger !

Another adventure ……………



Author: paul

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