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Seven years ago this is what happened halfway through my treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. 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.

As my ward doctor told me: ‘If you’re given a shit pack of cards, those are the ones you play with.’

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

Lifesaving Poems

You can read the full account of my story in Love for Now and in Riddance