Sunshine & Lollipops – Conversations in Cancer with Denise

“I’m transforming, I’m vibrating
I’m glowing, I’m flying
Look at me now
I’m flying
Look at me now”

Cave/Ellis ( Jubilee Street)

My SoulMate and I made our way to that Dublin early today ( Thursday ) , to meet my consultant and review the results of recent scans. We had good news and not so good news. One cancer , the main one , seems to be exhausted and has gone  home to bed, but another one, or the echo of another one, loves me so much that it’s refusing to leave the dancefloor!

Miss Little , reversing the synonym, ‘the icing on the cake’ , explained that we’ve sorted out the cake, we just may have a wee bit of trouble with the icing.

We went for lunch, and then pottered about the Georges St . Arcade, where ,as I discovered and tried on a lovely new sweatshirt, my SoulMate bumped into her old friend from the Grafton St. days, Stephen Kelly. He asked after me and my SoulMate nodded in my direction to let him know I was here. He looked at the sweatshirt I was trying on and whispered to her, “Is this a mid-life crisis ?”

I get that a lot.

Normally , any day I have a treatment, consultation , or hospital visit , the first person that reaches out to me is my lovely friend Denise French, but this week, she  has gone on to the next stage of her glorious adventure leaving us all behind.

Her painting, ‘Sunshine & Lollipops’, hangs in our kitchen and always commands admiration from visitors.

I met Denise while doing a college course in 2020. We were never on the same project team, and the course was conducted online after the arrival of the Lurgy in March that year, and yet she made a huge impression on me and we have stayed in touch through our respective cancer treatments.

What was she like ?


27th January 2022

Denise : “Howerya Paul ? Just read your waiting room story and hope the op went well and that you will be done with all that kind of malarkey soon ! And I love reading your stories. I’ve spent a lot of time on a similar journey the last 18 months with stage 4 breast cancer ( treatable for now but not curable) and , as you say, I find accepting help with good grace has been a hard one !! Keep well !”

30th January 2022

Paul : “Home now, and being treated to breakfast in bed. Pasta is hoping I’m not fit to finish it. All went well, two week wait for results and next course of events.”

Denise “ That Pasta definitely looks like she would take advantage of a sick person ! Enjoy a bit of spoiling.”

23rd March 2022 ( Denise is heading into Blackrock Clinic for treatment )

Paul ; “ Enjoy your Blackrock B&B ! I’ll light a candle for you here, very powerful…closer to god !”

Denise : “ Ha Ha ! Of course Monaghan is God’s own special place !! How are you getting on with treatment Paul ? Hope you are doing well. Thanks for the candle, always appreciated – I will light you one in Dalkey.

Paul : “ I’ll let you know tomorrow, first day of chemo today.”

Denise: “ Oh it’s a big day for you. Wishing you all the best for it – I have found meditation and nice deep breathing a huge help through the process – but the biggest thing will be your positive  and ‘can do ‘ attitude as well as the huge support from the SoulMate ! It has come to teach us something – I’m not quite sure what it is yet ! Good Luck !”

Paul : “ Patience would be an early guess.”

Denise : “ Yes that’s a definite !! Living in the moment and savouring the good is another.”

28th March 2022

Denise : “ Hope you are not having too much trouble with them drugs – if it helps any I found the first few treatments the worst…then you kind of acclimatise and get used to it , so it’s not so bad…I’m heading for treatment #28 this week !!

Paul : “ Do they give you a tee shirt when you pass 25 ? Not too bad so far, back again on Wednesday. I think of you every day , as I wrestle with Pasta for the last of the poached eggs , and catch a glimpse of the colour burst from your painting.”

Denise : “ Gosh I must ask for that tee shirt – I’m sure they simply forgot !! Glad you are enjoying the ‘Sunshine & Lollipops’ – I never heard of a cat that liked poached eggs – must be a centre of the universe thing !! Will be rooting for ya on Wednesday from my magic chair to yours.”

30th March 2022

Paul : “Poorly timed blood test…missed my lemon cake.”

Denise : “ What !!!??? LEMON CAKE !!!??? need to move hospitals – we never get cake in Blackrock. The husband has been banished from the family home as he got the plague yesterday !! But thankfully I have had two negative tests now, so heading in soon… I shall be asking questions about the effin’ lemon cake…have a fun day !”

Paul : “ Ditto !”

21st May 2022

Denise :” I’m going to call my book ‘Marmalade Meltdown’. I’m back in the slammer again and for some reason whenever I tick jam for brekkie I get marmalade…it’s the little things…How are you doing ? Congrats on the halfway point ! I’m back in for pain management and more scans – a couple of new visitors are causing havoc ! I need to be dancing at my son’s wedding next Saturday !!”

Paul : “ Marmalade – how to ruin two food groups at once ! I’ll keep you in my prayers…and they’re special , because we’re closer to God here.”

Denise ; “ Ha Ha of course you are !”

Paul : “ Prayers just said, wave of love imminent !”

Paul : “ Thinking of you and bopping about the kitchen and listening to this ‘Remember Me _ Original Mix’ Blue Boy. ( Sent links )

Denise : ” Ha love it – chair boppin in Blackrock to that !! Feelin the wave of positives coming from the heights of Monaghan !”

Denise : “I was allowed out for an hour this afternoon to bond with these little monkees – like herding cats – but very exciting to have the four grandkids together for the first time !”

Paul : “Cool ! I cook on Saturdays and have my own wee disco. ‘ No Diggity’ BlackStreet, ‘Love and Hate In a Different Time ‘ Gabriels… ( Sent links )

Denise : “Oh Thanks ! I’m loving all these – now have a special Paul Bond playlist ! I will be thinking of you as I bop about !”

Paul : “Build – The Housemartins, Jubliee Street – Live in Copenhagen – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – ( Sent Links ) Personal favourite, different and faster live. Saw him in Kilmainham – Glorious !”

Paul : “ My brothers got me this last Christmas. That’s your line now “I’m transforming, I’m vibrating, look at me on that dance floor next Saturday….move your chairs back !”

Denise :” Ha Ha absolutely ! And they won’t be long spotting me in my burnt orange outfit.”

Paul :” Gorgeous ! Cream – Prince ( Sent Link ) Last one ! Dinners ready !”

Denise :” Enjoy the dinner so !! Thanks for the entertainment.”

Paul “ Definitely last one …best wine last…’1 Think – Amerie’ ( Sent Link )

Paul :”Cheers !”

Denise : “Right back at ya…What a wall ! Should have snuck in some vino to go with the morphine !”

22nd May 2022

Paul : “ Tune into 8 , my friend Rachel has a Sunday Chill show on now 9-10

Denise : “ Ah flip , I missed it – was doing my morning marathon 250 metres on my walker in ten minutes – I’m flyin’ it now !”

Paul : “ You’ll get it on their playback.”

Denise : “Listened back now and downloaded the app – thanks for that ! Have a happy Monaghan Sunday !”

Paul :” I was too late to get a request played for you today, but you’ll get a mention next Sunday.”

Denise :” Fame at last !”

24th May 2022

Denise : “ Hi Paul – still in d clinic but finally got stuff done today ! MRI took ages – nearly two hours – in the machine for 90 mins – yuk ! They have upped me drugs again but they are working and the nerve block man says I will have to come back in July for rhizotomy procedure – injection won’t work because I already have spine fusion – so it’s drugs and knives for me !! I got a lovely pair of deep green crutches from the physio – he didn’t have any burnt orange ones which would be better with my new frock – which is very disappointing but what can you do ? I will be judging all the dancing at the weekend at my son’s wedding even if I’m not on the floor !! Letting me out tomorrow !!!”

Paul : “Judge them harshly ! A lady with your skills will have that set of crutches orange by Saturday. Paint dearest ! I’m writing a short story about an otter, I’ve just realised her name must be Denise.”

Denise : ”Excellent – that has a certain ring to it – or is it splash to it ? Look forward to reading it. Hope the halfway chemo wasn’t too tough ?”

Paul : “The first treatment of each cycle for me includes an injection to stimulate white blood cell production in the bone marrow. First cycle , felt nothing at all, second cycle, sore in the hips and struggled to sleep one night, but the third cycle started last Wednesday and by Sunday I felt as if I’d been trampled by an evil stumpy pony called Humphrey ! Other than that, all’s fine !”

Denise : “Ah Humphrey’s a bugger- I haven’t met him ,luckily, but his sisters Hildegard and Hermione used to dance on my hands and other joints on a very regular basis – they seem to have fecked off for the moment, thank God !!!”

Paul : “The bitches !”

25th May 2022

Paul : “Emailed you a story about an otter called Denise, and a boy called Trouble, it’s for kids, and the Cork Nature Network, in case you’re hocked up on steroids and can’t sleep.

26th May 2022

Denise :” Oooh thanks , looking forward to that, great names for starters !! Makin a break for it today out of this Blackrock bed after a week – the MRIs came up with extra fun news that I now need an urgent and complex hip replacement due to the damage from the tumour – it’s just the gift that keeps on giving !! They are very reluctantly letting me out in a wheelchair for the wedding but have to Cinderella back here on Sunday for surgery on Monday ! The joys !”

Paul : “I’ll storm heaven for you. You clear that dancefloor ! What’s your favourite song ? Other than Jubilee Street , of course.”

Denise :” Just listened to your Jubilee Street a couple of times  – it’s growing on me – I’m afraid I have the  very uncool answer of not having a favourite song until I hear it and then I hear another favourite later. So many songs out there. I’m a teenager from the 70’s  which was two extremes – I spent a lot of time learning Neil Young songs on the guitar, loving Janis Ian, and yet would die for a bit of Abba, or the Bee Gees – a decade of conflicts !”

Denise :” What a great story about Denise and Trouble – love it !!! I remember when one of mine felt he was being bullied and left out of football at yard time and a clever principal putting my Darragh and the lad who he was having the trouble with in charge of making sure everyone was included in football at yard time – transformative for both boys and they were pals for years !!”

Paul : “ I love Neil Young, and ABBA too ! We went to see Neil Young in Kilkenny a few years ago, absolutely stunning. He’s on a really cool podcast I found last month, I’ll send you the link in a minute. ( sent link to Broken Records with Rick Runbin – Neil Young , part one ).

30th May 2022

Paul :” Best of luck today ! Candles lit, prayers said, Nick Cave on repeat !”

Denise :” Ah you are good to remember ! I’m looking forward to next week when it will be a distant memory.”

Paul : “ What’s your address ? I want to send you something wee.”

Denise : “ Ah sweet ! ( Sends address ) Don’t you hate it when they have you fasting for an 11am surgery and then they decide to push it to 1pm ….bleedin starving ! Toodles !”

Paul “ Especially when they serve breakfast and Elevenses to everyone around you and look disapprovingly at your chart, like you’re a dog that’s bitten a visiting cousin.”

Denise ; “ Ha Ha !”

1st June 2022

Paul : “ A wee parcel sent to you via DPD today. Hope all is well .”

Denise : “Ah thanks Paul, that’s exciting !! I do love a wee surprise ! I’m doing well – physio has me up on crutches already. Surgeon fairly happy with the hip job says he got a fair bit of the tumour but that there’s still more in the other hip , so he’s expecting me back for the other at some stage – I do love a bit of good news !! Having said that the post op pain is so much less than what I have had the past ¾ months, I’m happy out !! Or maybe it’s the bucket of drugs and the fab view from my room !! I have a plan to visit Castle Leslie for a treat sometime in the near enough future so we will be swinging by the true centre of the universe to visit you at some point.”

Paul : “ Brilliant news !! I’ll give you a tour of our Drumlin Giants , and buy you a pint in The Pig !”

Denise :”Excellent , will let you know when we are on our way.”

2nd June 2022

Paul : ‘Halfway Down The Stairs’ Robin The Frog ( Sent link )

Denise : “That was always my little sister’s party piece ! I just love it ! Sending it to everyone now. Was Bloom fabulous ? I love the Minions !”

Paul :” Very busy, but great to see. There were some beautiful sculptures. Did your parcel arrive ?”

Denise :” I don’t know yet I sent my Dad round cause I’m still in the slammer ! He hasn’t rang me back…I’m so excited !”

Paul : “Reign in that excitement, it’s only wee.”

3rd June 2022 


Denise :” Well, an education and a delight ! Many thanks from way south of the centre of the universe – a lovely surprise to come home to !!”

Paul : “ Glad you’re home !”

Denise : “Home safe – pretty wiped out for now – all wrapped up in my lovely white anti-clot stockings – very attractive look !”

Paul :” Jeez I hate those stockings !”

Denise :” Cordial being sampled already ! Yum !”

Paul : “ With Champagne ???”

Denise : “ Naturellement !”

14th July 2022

Denise : “ Hi Paul – how are you doing ? Is today the surgery ?? Sending you lots of love and happy good vibes !!!”

Paul : “ No, operation is early August. Scan yesterday was to determine if left kidney has to go along with the bladder. But all good. How are you keeping ?”

Denise “Ah good – there is always a bit of scanxiety , so be kind to yourself ! I’m sure that SoulMate has that covered too ! I’m OK thanks, got the new hip, then got Covid, then a chest infection, so it’s been a hectic fun filled 6 weeks but coming around now. Hope to head off to Rosslare next week after my treatment for some beach time and a few trashy novels !! Enjoy the sunshine !”

3rd August 2022

Paul : ( Received cards from Denise addressed to Paul Bond, Makes Giants In Rossmore Park, Monaghan ) “Thanks for the cards ! Loved the address. Hope all is well with you.”

Denise “ Ha Ha ! I couldn’t remember the address but hoped the Rossmore bit would find you ! Glad you got it ! Keep walking  ! I’d love a good walk – did 700m yesterday, took 15 mins, but it’s a start !”

28th October 2022

Denise : “ Lovely surprise in our letterbox today ! Thanks – I will donate to Cork Nature Network. The exhibition went really well – I couldn’t believe the turnout ! Hope your night away was great !”

How lucky am I to have people like Denise in my life ?



Author: paul

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