Cancer! what was I to do? My mother would know.

Mammy-garanny-eleanor-and-me_thumb.gifI had seen the tumour on the screen, the doctors face, I did not need to wait for the biopsy. The nurse told me I would be having CT and MRI scans the following week. Their sense of urgency and my clinical knowledge left me in no doubt the biopsy results was merely a formality.

On the drive home, I felt very philosophical I had had a great life and I’ve done more than many who will live to be a hundred. People who crave fame and riches are soon forgotten. I have no doubt my friends will remember me because I shared many of their funniest experiences. Its quality of life that matters not quantity and I had lived life to the full. What was most fun? My time in Gormanston, the 80s in Copenhagen and the girls from Sweat Shop, the 90s at the Anglo College of Chiropractic. No the best years were the noughties. I met Janette in 98, Frederik came to live with us in 2003 and soon after my three daughters Isabelle, Molly and Eloise were born. Life really did start to kick in after forty.

I got home Janette was in our beautiful kitchen, two weeks before the builders had finished our “Grand Design” of the entire ground floor of our house in Thames Ditton. Jeannette gave me a hug, I was surprised how little emotion she was showing, I now know she was having difficulty comprehending what I had just told her and what it might mean for our family and she was doing her best to remain calm until the consultant had seen the results of all the tests and presented the prognosis.

The kids were playing in the sitting room, as usual they ran to me, delighted to see me home. Looking at the kids was when it hit me, the price we all would pay if I dont have long to live, death of a parent  seemed such a cruel thing  to inflict on young children. I wanted to cry, my lip was trembling I managed to hold the wells in my eyes at bay. The children had never seem me crying and I had no idea what I was going to tell them.

Like most parents I love my kids, in fact wild horses would not get me down to the pub with a group of lads lads. I did all that and more in the 80s and 90s. Now my main interest in life is having fun with my kids. Janette reckons I am the ultimate man child, 54 going on 12. I have never been motivated by money or material things, yes I like nice things, but nothing compares with having a laugh with my family, now suddenly I feared I would never laugh again, so consumed was I with the fear of the future or lack of it.

We had evening meal watched some TV, nothing registered. We went to bed this is when it really started to sink in. I couldn’t sleep my eyes were wide open in the dark like someone had used matchsticks to prop them open. All I could hear was my heart beating rapidly at the thought of this lump in my colon. This afternoon it had looked about the size of an apricot , but as the hours passed it was growing in my imagination. Perhaps that was just the tail of it and at the other side of the colon wall was something the size of a melon.

Perhaps I was going to go really fast, like Julia’s mother who died ten weeks after diagnose with stage 4 Colon cancer. I had no energy. Perhaps I should have recognized the signs months ago?

I suspect now my judgment was impaired by the fact that I hadn’t eaten properly for the two days leading up to the colonoscopy, no solids the day before. I was very weak on the Friday and foolishly agreed to play tennis in Walton, I played terrible and had no energy and now saw these ,as signs I was going fast. I had been teaching an exercise class at Esporta for two years and started to feel tired doing the sit ups in December. This continued in January, a few hundred sit ups would tire most people, however I put it down to getting old, especially after loosing a couple of tennis matches to guys I felt I should have beaten.

I kept telling myself don’t look on the internet but I couldn’t help myself, I logged on, it was horrible. No good news stories, worst-case scenarios, people dying, misery now I was really depressed and was in no doubt if I was not seriously ill now, I would be if I carried on like this for a few months but what was I to do. It would be so easy if I believed in God I thought to myself.

Six months previously my daughter Isabelle had expressed an interest in the “miraculous” medal which I hade worn since my granny died in 1980. She had worn it since 1905. My parents split up when I was 4. My mother worked in England to pay for me and my sister Eleanor to go to the best boarding schools in Ireland. Ring College and Gormanston college. My mothers theory was if you went to school who aspired to be successful, you would also be successful. Home was my Grannys house in Carrick on Suit, Co Tipperary.

Granny used to say when I’m dead and gone you won’t remember me, so on the day she died I put her medal and chain on and not a day has passed when I have not thought of her. Isabelles interest in the medal pleased me and I stopped wearing it after thinking I had lost it in October so one day I could pass it on to Isabelle. Now in the dark, I went to my hiding place and put granny’s medal back around my neck. I was surprised the comfort I got from it, It felt warm inside, it was comforting to feel granny close to me.

Then I watched a video of “Phyllis McGheee – A women of substance” . Phyllis McGhee was my mother. The Irish broadcaster RTE, broadcast an interview with mother the day of her funeral in 1990. If as they say I am a courageous passionate person, then I got those characteristics from my mother. The interview was conducted a few months before she died of Colon cancer aged 55 in 1990. Her lack of fear and self pity gave me strength and focus on what I needed to do. In fact what scared me the most now was that it had taken her many months to come to terms with the fact she had cancer and might die.

Phyllis McGhee a woman of substance Part 1 (9mins)

I had an advantage, I had her to help me and talk me through this  and hopefully she can help others as she did in life. The videos are not of great quality, I have posted three 10 minute excerpts, here the entire interview and her political views is on U Tube.

Part 2 (8 min)

I  knew I had to act quickly and get my head around what I was facing as soon as possible. The dawn had broken, the children were waking. I would call Julie Sutton. She is a hypnotherapist that works at my practice. She had managed to stop me biting my nails after a life time of failure trying.

part 3 (9 mins)

About Richard Lanigan

Born 1957, have 4 children. Was diagnosed with stage three rectal cancer in March 2011.
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