Love Comes Tumbling

“In your eyes
The light, the heat (in your eyes)
I am complete (in your eyes)
I see the doorway
To a thousand churches (in your eyes)
The resolution (in your eyes)
Of all the fruitless searches”

  • Peter Gabriel

No two weeks are the same in the Chemolympics. Even though I completed the second part of a treatment cycle for the third time on Wednesday, everything is different to the last two times. This is mostly due to the cumulative effect of the previous 7 treatments  are all still having and the fact that I am different each time, experiencing what outwardly look like the same thing, differently. Even simple things like taste are changing. Food that I looked forward to on my hospital visits are not so desirable now. I’m a bit slower, more tired, but no less adorable.

I’m still wildly optimistic about everything , and yet this Wednesday I got very emotional twice. And , yes, I’m the guy that cried at the old Diamond Cinema in Monaghan at the Sunday afternoon matinee of the proper original Disney cartoon  Jungle Book when I thought Baloo had died fighting Shere Khan…on my 27th birthday. But still…

On treatment Wednesdays I take up either a box of buns from Dinkins, treats from The Local, or apple turnovers from Flemings to the Day Oncology Ward for the staff. They work so hard and deserve a little bit of Monaghan. I hand these into reception when I check in on the ward and then take a seat and wait my turn to be seen.

When my first nurse calls me, it was Patricia this week, I’m taken to be weighed, temperature taken, blood pressure taken and canula inserted. I get my bloods taken here at home the day before, so they ring Cavan Hospital for he results and then they can order up my chemo. This week Cavan hadn’t got the results as there had been a strike by Irish Medical Scientists across the health system the day before. This meant that we had to take my bloods again and the day would be a little longer as we’d have to wait for those results before we could order my chemo.

I didn’t mind, I supported the strike. The previous week my Soulmate and I had beeped and waved at the striking scientists when we were leaving the hospital. I support unions in general, and health unions in particular. They are saving our lives on a daily basis, it’s not much to ask to pay them fairly.

So, I had a slightly longer day than I was expecting. But I had been booked to do an auditory test, so I went down to their lab for that. One of the side effects of one of my chemo treatments is tinnitus and they wanted to check that it wasn’t doing too much damage. It wasn’t.

When I went back up to the day ward my bloods had come back, everything was tickety-boo, so my chemo was ordered. I sat back to read my book, ‘Convenience Store Woman’, when it happened. Ronan, the registrar came over to me. I’d only met him once before, during the previous cycle when my bloods were low, and they had to get his opinion on whether my treatment should go ahead. On that occasion he’d asked about the book I was reading that day, ‘Lincoln In The Bardo’, as he was heading on holidays and looking for a good book. I raved about it. When I went home that day I ordered a copy of it from Dubray books and had it sent to him in the hospital. That’s why he sought me out this week.

He sat down beside me and said “That was a really cool thing to do.” I started to say that it was the least I could do, but he said “No, it was a really lovely thing you did.” He smiled at me , nodded, got up and left. Thankfully I was sitting at the back of the waiting room so no one could see that I’d started to cry.

I tried to tell my Soulmate about it when we were leaving the hospital and choked up again. And yesterday I called over to Mum for a cup of tea and started to tell her and had to stop because I knew I’d cry. Bizarre.

I think it was because it was such a simple thing to do. Here he was saving my life, and everyone else’s, he’d expressed interest in a book, and I’d sent him the book, and yet it seemed to mean a lot to him. I think I got upset because that implied that it was rare that someone had done that for him, whereas I experience it on a daily basis. This week alone I’ve received Fontaines DC tickets for December, Bloom tickets, a decorated plate, a glorious band tee ( Post Party – new single ‘Camera Shy out TODAY !), a cake, books, a postcard from the Isle of Lewis, a pineapple, a Chicago Cubs jersey, and a water pistol.

The book I was reading that day was given to me by Damian, and the book I was reading this week when he came back was given to me by Helena.

Never underestimate how much a little gesture can make a big difference.

After that my treatment started.

And then my stoma nurse arrived for a chat. We were able to take the drip machine into a quiet room where she was able to tell me about the operation that would follow my chemo, to remove my bladder. I’d been so consumed with the chemolympic that I’d almost forgotten that there was an operation at the end. But here it was , announcing itself, in glorious Technicolor, with props and visual aids.

As Elaine started to detail what would happen, and more importantly what would happen afterwards she would pause at intervals waiting for my responses and acknowledgement that I knew what she was talking about.

My responses started off firm and assured , “YES !”, “OF COURSE !”, and then gradually got quieter “”yes”, “mmHmm”…before settling into some “Oh…I see…”.

I perked up a bit when she mentioned that I could run or swim after three months.

“And paragliding?” I asked.

“Yes !” she replied, impressed.

“That’s brilliant !” I replied,” Because I was always too afraid to do it before.” I laughed. She looked at me as if I had two heads.

She started to vaguely talk about “sex”. There’s a risk with every operation……Brilliant !

F or some bizarre reason I was immediately catapulted back to second year in St.Macartan’s College and our Civics class, where it fell to a mortified Fr.Martin to explain the facts of life, with a heavy emphasis on the evils of masturbation, to our class of 30 giddy 14 year old boys.

That moment quickly passed.

She started to ask again was I familiar with ‘sexual aids’ and I was about to make a joke saying did reading Fifty Shades of Grey count, but mercifully my IV Dripmaster 2000 started to beep, my chemo was finishing, Elaine packed away the agricultural demonstration aids , and went looking for my nurse.

I said goodbye to everyone and went out to meet my Soulmate and go home.

 On these Wednesdays I have to take a steroid with the chemo, and this means that I’m wired to the moon that evening and can’t sleep.

Two random things combined, as random things are want to do.

Throughout my chemolympics I’m in regular touch with my friend Denise, fellow chemolympian, and fellow Trinity student. We share a similar sense of humour and eclectic taste in music. Her glorious Pospsicle painting hangs in my kitchen. She has had a tough week.

And out of nowhere I saw a post about a short story competition by the Cork Nature Network, aimed at kids and featuring an otter.

I wrote a story about a boy called Trouble and an otter called Denise.

I cried writing it.

A kid’s story about an otter.

I sent it to Denise.

She loved it.

I sent it to the Cork Nature Network. They have not commented at all.

If you’re reading this on email I’ve attached the story at the end. If you’re not reading this on email, you’ve missed a lovely wee story, and why haven’t you signed up to get my email ?

After Denise said she liked the story I relaxed. Well as relaxed as anyone hocked up on steroids can be. I sat up and watched Ferris Buellar’s Day Off. I hadn’t watched it in ages, it’s still brilliant. I watched Blade Runner , still magic.

And then , at 4.00 am I drifted off to sleep….for 15 minutes and woke again , bright as a button. Even reading Monaghan native, philantropist, and all round cuckoo, Sir William Whitla’s ‘Newton’s Daniel & The Apocalypse’ failed to lull me back to sleep.

Another new experience.

Embrace them all.



P.S. I introduced this song, the live version of Nick Cave’s ‘Jubilee Street’ to Denise this week, and my d Rachel is going to play it for her on her Sunday morning show on 8 Radio.

Author: paul

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