Radio Free Monaghan

“Decide defy the media too fast
Instead of pushing palaces to fall
Put that, put that, put that up your wall
That this isn’t fortunate at all
Radio station decide yourself”

  • Buck/Mills/Berry/Stipe (Radio Free Europe)

There I was sitting at the Coffee Dock in Rossmore Park after helping out with Ireland’s friendliest Parkrun enjoying my second three scoop Rum & Raisin milkshake of the day while sorting the worlds troubles with the Mayor, when we were accosted by young Aaron McElroy, local gumshoe reporter on Northern Sound radio, Monaghan’s award winning local radio station , which charitably also covers Cavan. Aaron announced that he would be leaving local radio soon and that he ‘must’ get me in for an interview before he departs.

“What would we talk about ?” I asked.

“Whatever you like.” He answered. “I’ll give you a shout in a week or so.”

And then he left.

The Mayor and I  ordered another couple of three scoop Rum & Raisin milkshakes and came up with wilder and wilder topics to broadcast live to Monaghan, the buried treasure of Rossmore Park, or how the traffic flow system in Monaghan town is controlled by Church, or the evil genius behind the design of the new Margaret Skinnader  roundabout, or  the foldup bicycle AnnaMarie McCleary stashes on the route of her ultra marathons in case she gets tired, or simply why Monaghan is indeed the True Centre Of The Universe.

Two weeks later Aaron messaged me to see if I’d be free to come in on Wednesday 28th, and I said yes. We decided that rather than talk about any of the above , we’d chat about cancer and optimism.

I arrived at the Northern Sound studio in Milltown 10 minutes before I was due to go on. I was offered tea or coffee and then Aaron came and got me while a piece he’d recorded earlier played. He set me up with a microphone, told me how it would all play out and put me at my ease. If the whole radio malarkey doesn’t pan out, he has a career ahead in counselling.

As he signalled that we’d be live in two minutes I asked if there were any final tips “I suppose we should avoid any curse words ?”

“Say whatever the f*ck you like.” He said, smiling.

“ Can I give a plug to the Communist Party of Ireland ?”

“No !”

And then he was introducing me.

Aaron : “Monaghan’s Paul Bond is many things, a businessman, creator of giants, an athlete, a familiar face around the town, and a story teller. And in recent months he’s been using his profile to document his recent cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery. So, Paul, how are you getting on now ?”

Me : “I’m getting on great, and even better after that introduction, I’ve never been called an athlete before and I’m sure that as we speak there are many members of the Monaghan Town Runners, and the Phoenix Athletic Club , falling off their chairs or choking on their coffee.

Aaron : Before we get on to the start of your journey, your story, maybe tell us where you are now with your recovery ?

Me : I’m 8 or 9 weeks post my operation and I’m due to have a couple of scans in the middle of October, and that will be the procedure for the next while, scans every three months or so until they’re happy that there’s nothing else there, or nothing coming back. And then they’ll hopefully lengthen to six monthly checks, then annually. So, at this point I’m feeling a little fitter day by day and threatening to go back running at Christmas.

Aaron : And , so, we’ll go back then to the start of your journey, your story, or your diagnosis, or where would you like to start ? What timeframe are we looking at ?

Me : November last year, and like many men of my age , I woke early on a Monday morning to go to the loo, and it was as simple as my pee was a different colour than normal, but thought little of it, having indulged in many pints of Guinness over the weekend. But on the Tuesday morning there was a rose tint to it and I thought, ‘I haven’t seen that before, doesn’t look right, and saw my GP , Dr.Bourke, that Wednesday and he did a few checks, booked me in for a scan, here, which because of Covid and everything , took place in the week before Christmas, and around the 3rd or 4th of January the he called to say that the results came back showing something, but don’t be too alarmed, but it will require further examination. So a week or two later he referred me to a consultant in Dublin, and literally from that week until now something seems to have happened every single week. The first consultant booked me in to hospital a week later for him to do tests, the first one was a cystoscopy, oh, and if anyone ever says to you ‘Aaron, you need to have a cyctoscopy, but don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt’…they’re liars.

It revealed that there was a tumour in my bladder, and , again, I was booked in very quickly , a week later for him to remove it and, so, that was the first time I’d ever stayed in a hospital overnight in my whole life, I was in for two nights, and then I was booked in to see him a couple of weeks later, and he said that unfortunately it was stage two, he’d hoped to have been able to remove it all, but it had penetrated the muscle wall, so it was now beyond his pay grade, and he referred me on to another consultant in Beaumont. I think we’re up to April now. So met this delightful lady, Dilly Little , a consultant urologist in Beaumont, and she took me in for more tests and through those they determined that I needed chemo…nowadays they seem to favour giving you chemo before your operation rather than the traditional way of afterwards. And I also had a nephrostomy, which is a little tube into your kidney to relieve pressure. So I was in hospital for 2 or 3 days at that time and then the chemo started. I had a 16 week cycle of chemo, so it was three Wednesdays in a row, break for a week and repeat that 4 times, and then had the major operation in July. So ultimately, I had my bladder , my left kidney, and my prostate removed. So, you know, lost about a stone, which is sitting in a bucket somewhere in a pathology lab in Beaumont. So, I was in hospital for 12 days and then I’ve been home since.

Aaron : You said that when you first noticed something wrong, it was only a matter of days before you did something about it, whereas the natural reaction may have been to ignore it for a while, see if it goes away on its own.

Me : Yes, but on the Monday when I did notice it was a funny colour I was going to ignore it until the following day there was that rose tint to it. Otherwise I would have reacted exactly like you said. So, I was probably quite fortunate that I did react quickly. Even the first consultant said that it wasn’t uncommon for runners to sometimes do something that caused blood in the urine, so initially , everyone was saying, that its not nothing but it’ll probably ne at the lower end, man of your years, good level of fitness, no other signs…They kept asking…because the tumour seems to have been a bit large, or aggressive , and it threw them a little that I hadn’t been ill, certainly hadn’t lost any weight, so it was just…yeah….I have to say that from the moment I picked up the phone and rang Geraldine and Pamela in Dr.Bourke’s surgery, from then every person I’ve bumped into, the level of care and attention I received was phenomenal. I said to someone that the day I found out that I had cancer was the best day in human history up until that point to have got that news, the next best day would be today.

Aaron : We know that it would be an enormous strain an anyone physically doing through the treatment and operation, but mentally did it take it’s toll, going through this ?

Me : I don’t think it did because…I think it took more of a toll on friends and family, mentally, more than myself because I’m in the trenches , dealing with it, I know what I’m dealing with at that moment, what this tablet is, what’s in the IV bag, what’s in front of me, what I’m dealing with right now, whereas others can only imagine that maybe your pain is greater than it actually is, and they’re all doing what they think is their best for you, but they don’t know what the best for you is, but at the same time, everything they did was right. Like, the level of support from family and friends was truly phenomenal.

Honestly I only cried twice through the whole thing, once was when , after seeing the first consultant after the first operation and him saying that the tumour was in the muscle wall and that  my bladder had to be removed, and going out to the car to tell Eileen…that was…that was the toughest. But after that I looked on everything as amazing. I counted one day when I was up for chemo all of the people that did something for me that day, from the receptionist, to the lady who got me tea, to the nurse who took my bloods..I think it was 27 people , in that one chemo session, that had interacted with me, helped me in some way and I thought ‘Jesus ! How lucky am I ?’

Aaron : And you were saying that through your recovery now, getting a bit fitter day by day that you’ve had huge support from friends and family again, to keep you going on this path.

Me : Oh absolutely. From day 1, my family, I work with my two brothers and other friends and they said, as soon as I told them my diagnosis that they didn’t want to see me at work. So I had the luxury that I  wasn’t under any pressure that was, and we are very fortunate financially, so there wasn’t that pressure.

It’s been incredibly humbling, the amount of people that…people that you would know, would be friendly with, but that you haven’t been out to dinner with, or even gone to their house, but they arrived at my house with flowers, books…I mentioned , randomly, that I was looking forward to Lucozade, that I hadn’t had it in ages, and I could probably have wholesaled it to shops, I received that much of it.

Neighbours started doing my lawn and odd jobs around the house…not that I wasn’t fit to do it, I’m just naturally lazy!

I couldn’t really start to name…I’d be loath to start naming people who helped me and Eileen, because even if we were here for another hours and just mentioned their names, it wouldn’t be time enough to name them all. Like I said the care and attention I got from everyone through the whole process…at one point someone asked Eileen how’s Paul getting on and she said ‘…if he was any more positive about it he’d practically be recommending it to people.’

Truly humbled by the love and care I’ve received from everyone.

Aaron : Thanks Paul.

And that was it.

Aaron made it all very easy. You can listen to it and hear my dulcet tones HERE , but be advised it only seems to work on a laptop, if you try and listen on a phone it sounds like I’, impersonation Funghi the dolphin.


Paul Bond, athlete.

Author: paul

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *