By Caragh Bell
TWO months ago my 45-year-old husband went for a routine colonoscopy. Mild symptoms, easily explained away, prompted this tick-the-box exercise. Always too busy, he reluctantly took time out of his manic schedule to attend.
He was alone when the camera detected an abnormality. I was called in straight away. The consultant stated the facts. They saw a large mass which was likely to be a tumour. A biopsy would confirm.
I couldn’t believe it. He didn’t look remotely sick. It couldn’t be true. But it was.
What followed was a whirlwind of scans and tests, followed by hospitalisation and surgery a week before Christmas. We hoped he would be home for Christmas Day, but it was not meant to be. Complications meant a longer stay. Operation followed operation. Tears followed more tears. Santa came and went. Covid restrictions meant I only saw him twice over a three-week period. Our five children did not see him at all over the festive season.
Cancer is a terrifying word. In fact, the language around this omnipresent disease is distressing. Words like oncologist, chemo port, stage, prognosis, malignant, and, the most traumatic of all, spread. There’s shock, denial, anger, frustration, bitterness, and worry. There’s an ache in your heart that doesn’t go away. The minute you hear the word ‘cancer’, you cross the rubicon. Life is irrevocably changed.
But you’re not alone. Up to a couple of months ago, I was ignorant of the amazing support that exists for cancer patients and their families. The Mercy Hospital in Cork has been our lifeline. During those three weeks in hospital, they saw my husband at his lowest ebb. They cleaned his wounds, counselled him, held his hand when he was lonely on Christmas Day, encouraged him to walk again, cheered him up. They even made him laugh. They normalised what we would have previously deemed impossible to accept: a critical diagnosis and a difficult fight ahead.
The Mercy Foundation in Cork runs a cancer appeal. I came across an initiative called ‘300,000 Steps in February’ on Facebook. I signed up straight away, receiving a t-shirt and a log for my daily steps. This fundraiser is a small way of giving back and making a difference to those affected by this horrendous disease. My husband doesn’t have the strength, but I do.
Two months ago, my biggest worry was whether my online purchases would arrive before Christmas. Now, nothing matters except the present. It’s one day at a time.
If you feel like there’s something not quite right, get it checked. Don’t put it off because of work deadlines or fear. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re young or old, a father, a mother, or even a child. More and more people are defying statistics and slipping through the screening cracks. Early detection can save your life.
Every step I take and every penny I raise will be for the many patients and families out there in a similar position to us. Please support this worthy cause. No one knows what tomorrow will bring.