Lifesaving Poems: Patrick Kavanagh’s ‘Wet Evening in April’

Here is what happened halfway through my treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in April 2006. I went for a midway scan to report on the shrinkage of my tumour and was given the wrong results.

My tumour was in fact responding well to the chemotherapy treatment I was being given. But the radiologist who analysed my scan pictures somehow looked at them the wrong way round, so mistakenly saw evidence of my tumour growing. I was told this meant it was not responding to treatment, and that a new, much harsher, course of chemotherapy would have to be put in place for me.

My family and I lived with the ‘truth’ of this misdiagnosis for nine days until the mistake was uncovered. In that time we did our best to commit to ordinary life as best we could, doing the school run, eating and watching crap telly together, as you do. I do know I began writing my funeral service. I even broke the habit of a lifetime and discussed money with my wife.

During this time I was glad to come across this poem by Patrick Kavanagh. It became a kind of touchstone, helping me to come to terms with my forthcoming oblivion in language that was even more direct than my doctors’.

Wet Evening in April

The birds sang in the wet trees
And as I listened to them it was a hundred years from now
And I was dead and someone else was listening to them.
But I was glad I had recorded for him
the melancholy.

Patrick Kavanagh

Later this year Impress Books will publish Love for Now, a memoir of my experience of cancer.
You can read more about my treatment for cancer here, here and here

1 Comment

  1. I discovered Wet Evening in April in the spring of 1990 (just before university finals) as a Poem on the Underground, and loved it immediately. I have had cause to meditate over it deeply since April 2017 when I suffered cardiac arrest and was revived, against the odds, by paramedics. The poem was first published in April 1952, so your blog post was published precisely 60 years later.

    Thank you for sharing it in such a thoughtful way.

    Liked by 1 person

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