Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cackelkine by Emma (age 13)

Guest post by my daughter:

CACKLEKINE by Emma Tobin

Age 13


I sat down on a cracked dusty pew in the abandoned Church in Edenville and bent over to examine my shoes while fighting back tears. I watched with fascination as they dripped one by one onto the floor forming a small puddle. My headache drummed a heavy beat into my skull, duh – dum, duh – dum.

The sound of a giggle shattered the silence around me. It began low, just a chuckle, but quickly escalated into a hysterical cackling that bored into every crevice of my brain. I stood up slowly, backed down the aisle and scanned the rows of empty pews. The laugh stopped as I desperately searched the mouldy interior of the Church for the source.

“Sweet, oh sweet human blood”, a voice too close to my ear for comfort said lustfully.

“Who are you? My voice sounded strange to me, too low and faint.

“Don’t worry, it won’t hurt a bit” the voice said.

I spun around and stared into the cold, clear, blue eyes of a hideous ……..thing, crouched cat-like on a nearby pew. It was wearing a straightjacket, battered prison combat pants and sandals. Its jagged, yellow teeth gleamed in the sunlight that streamed through the stained-glasswindow, and blood dribbled from its chin.

“They thought they could keep me locked up”, it mumbled as it approached me. I stood there, just watching, not running like I should have. Its wicked eyes seemed to stare right into my soul. I tried to scream, but I could only manage a squeak as I crumpled onto the cold ground, sapped of all energy.

“They put me in this”, it squirmed in the straight- jacket, “but they underestimated my feet”. It showed me a sandaled foot, with long sharp toe nails that looked like blades.

Then it said, “Now I will feed on the bones, flesh and blood of a human”. A strange calm had descended around me and I watched with resignation as it lifted up my pale arm and bit into it. I screamed so loudly it flinched. I squirmed and lashed out at the elongated mass of shadows that my world had become. The only thing I saw clearly was the drips of blood that were escaping from its mouth as it sucked my blood.

Suddenly it jumped up and staggered away from me. My world came back into painful focus.

“You, you, you”…..it said over and over as it staggered to the door. It made it half way down the aisle before it collapsed. It shook, convulsions wrecked its body. Then it exploded and blood splashed the stained glass windows as bits of it fell around me like warm, sticky, confetti!


Next thing I was aware of was footsteps coming towards me. My vision was blurred but I could just make out four figures dressed in crimson garments walking in tight formation up the aisle.

As I watched, one broke off and ran towards me and I shied away when I saw the glint of the blade that he………no she, carried.

“Rayne, I think I will need your help with this one”, she shouted back to the group.

My vision finally cleared and I saw a boy break away and walk towards me. “Who are you?”, I asked, feeling dizzy as I spoke. He ignored me and reached out for my arm. I slapped his hands away, hissing angrily in a way I never realised I could. “Ssssh”, he said.

He knelt down and reached out to touch my arm. I looked up at him, transfixed by his eyes which were every colour of the rainbow. I felt myself going limp as his cold fingers probed my wound. “Lorenzo bit deep”, he said.

“Don’t dawdle, just get the poison out, preferably before the human dies”, a new voice says. I felt a stab of indignation - who was he to call me human, he was too, wasn’t he?

“I need to know the extent of her wounds before I heal them”, Rayne hissed. “ Why don’t you two go clean Lorenzo off the walls or something and leave this to me”

Rayne suddenly raised his hand and hissed – “I hear human police”.

“Great”, the wall cleaner said happily, “let’s leave her for them!”

“What?”, Rayne exclaimed angrily, “ Have you seen her cuts - they have Leecher poison in them. She is going blue”.

A pair of ice-cold hands lifted me from my pool of blood. I cried out in pain and a voice cooed in my ear – “It’s okay”. I felt myself losing consciousness. Who are these people, I wondered numbly. Who………..


It took a huge effort for me to open my eyes. Rayne was unwrapping a blood-stained bandage from my arm, which was a light shade of blue. Seeing my eyes open, he smiled tentatively at me. “I fixed you up, but your arm will be blue for a while”, he said as he finished dressing my wound.

“Where am I”, I asked.

“Cleo will explain everything - she is waiting for you at the fire, Rayne said. I noticed how cute he was.

Rayne lifted me and as he did, I looked up to the sun as it filtered through the canopy of leaves overhead.

Rayne set me down gently at a crackling fire and sat down at the opposite side of the fire.

A girl of about 16, was sitting at the fire. She had long blonde hair and blue eyes and she smiled at me when I looked at her. I guessed she must be Cleo.

Cleo turned to me: “I am sure you have a lot of questions”, she said.

I blurted my questions in quick succession:

“Where am I?

“What was that thing?

“Why did it explode?

“Who are you people?”

She didn’t flinch as she replied:

“We are in a forest just North of Edenville

“That THING was a Leecher.”

“Like a vampire”, I asked.

“No, a Leecher is mortal like us but it feeds on human flesh, blood and sometimes souls.”

“Souls!”, I exclaimed, “then how come I am not an empty shell. Did it not get my soul?”

“No, but it did get a good deal of your blood which is why you feel so weak”, she said.

She paused and locked eyes with Rayne, who shook his head. I wondered what was going on. That glance between them must have meant something.

Cleo spoke again. “As to who we are we are known as the 22nd Cell of the Metro Police. We have powers which have been handed down since the beginning of time”, she boasted.

“Oh, that’s er ….. nice”, I stammered.

Cleo gave me a withering look and said “and you Sasha Hope, are one of us”.

As she spoke a blinding light shone out from her eyes and two beams struck me, one on my forehead and one to my heart. I screamed in shock and pain and tried to roll out of the way but a strange sensation pulsed through my body, a feeling of immense power.


“You are a pure blood” Cleo said, “and that is why the Leecher exploded. They can’t withstand blood so powerful. You are bound to the Metro Police. You are one of us!”

I shocked her I think when I smiled and said: “When do I start?”


Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Sick Stuff Folder

I found it just now when I was tidying up in the spare bedroom – a brown manila folder with the inscription ‘Brenda illness 2007 – miscellaneous’. I really had no idea what was in it as I thought I had all of my ‘sick stuff’ filed away in one of the drawers of my bureau.

The fact that the folder says miscellaneous must mean that it is bits and pieces of 'sickstuff' that I never got around to filing away.
Going through the folder there are several prints of emails which were exchanged between myself and some of the girls in work. One of them is dated 11 April 2007 and it was sent from me to Noreen. It reads:
‘I am nervous about the transplant, even scared. At the moment I suppose I can take refuge in the fact that the transplant is ahead of me. There’s a certain sense of security in that. I’m not frightened about the actual process, I guess it’s what will come after. There are worries and concerns – being away from the kids for three weeks is one. The major concern I have is ‘will the transplant work?’

'But as these cocerns and fears float around in my head, my philosophy kicks in – be positive and take it a day at a time. That is all I can do.

'I hope you had a good Easter. There were and still are so many eggs in our house that I don’t know if we will get through them in time for next Easter.

'It’s late so I will sign off……’

There are several other emails between us – catching up and filling each other in on what was happening. Work was in freeze frame for me at that stage and I honestly never knew if I would be able to go back.

As I flick on through the folder I find a hand written list of all the medications I was on – this was a list I brought everywhere with me in the early days after my diagnosis as I very quickly got used to rhyming off the names of the drugs and the doses to whichever nurse or doctor asked me:

• Nuseal 75mg per day (aspirin)

• Valtrex 500mg per day (keep away viral infections like shingles)

• Diflucan 30mg per day (keep away fungal infections)

• Zoton 30mg per day (for my stomach)

• Alfacalcidol 0.25mg per day (for calcium)

• Zylorix 100mg per day (can't remember!)

• Calcichew D3 Forte per day (for calcium)

• Thalidomide 300mg (6 tablets) per day  (this was the main drug used to fight the myeloma)

• Septrin (2 per day every Monday and Tuesday) (an antibiotic)

• Pamidronate 30mg intravenously (bone strengthener)

• Vitamin B12 injection every month (for anaemia)

• Dexamethasone (steroids = massive amounts 4 days a month) (worked in combination with thalidomide)

Aranesp was another injection - I had to give myself two of these every Wednesday. Straight into the tummy. I was black and blue.
Finding this list brings back memories of so many many tablets of so many different colours which I used to line up each day. I had two plastic cups – one for the morning dose and one for the night time dose. Thalidomide had to be taken last thing at night as it made me very sleepy. The steroids sent me a little crazy and a little bit weepy once a month.

Thankfully I do not take any more tablets – I am off everything which is amazing really.

Flicking on I see the letter from St James’s Hospital in Dublin which was dated 5 June 2007.

"Dear Brenda,
A note to give you the dates for your admission and transplant. We hope to procveed with stem cell reinfusion on the 9/7/2007. Therefore your chemotheraphy will need to be administered in Tallaght on the 5th and 6th July. You will be transferred to St James’s Hospital on the 9th as a day patient for reinfusion of your cells. ...."

I remember opening that letter and it was the best and the worst news in the world for me to receive. I finally had the date that my transplant would take place on – 9 July 2007, but I also knew that the 5 and 6 July were the dates assigned for me to have the high dose chemo. That chemo would challenge me almost to my limits. I sat down on the kitchen floor in shock and excitement and dread and numbness.

There are a lot of photocopies of medical sick certs and weekly disability benefit forms - even when I was ill I kept my filing system up to scratch!

I keep looking through the folder and I find a letter dated 30/5/2007

"To Whom it may Concern: Brenda Drumm is currently receiving chemotheraphy here and requires a wig. "

That was the letter officially telling the wig people that I would be in need of their services.

Further on in the folder there's a handwriteen foolscap page on which is written:

‘Difficult days come unexpectefly like a flood. You cannot plan for them, neither can you prepare for them.

Every morning you have an option – you can choose to be discouraged or choose to hope. ‘

These may be the words of Pope benedict for the World Day of the Sick – I must have read them somewhere and they spoke to me at that particular time.

Then in the middle of the folder a little drawing catches my eye. It’s a picture of Bob the Builder which has been traced and it has been coloured in by my son Cathal who would have been two at the time I was sick. It says "To Mammy, from Cathal" and I assume this was written for him by his big sister Emma who was 9 at the time.

As I move on through the folder I am suddenly faced with a picture of myself – printed out in colour on an A4 page. I am bald, bloated, ugly. My eyes are raw red and swollen, bloody and bruised. My nose is caked with dried blood. I look like a man – the Michelin man. That picture was taken on 18 July 2007 in the middle of the worst part of the transplant process – I had been in hospital for just under two weeks at that stage and I was in a very bad way. Seeing that face looking up at me shocks me.

I think it may be out of place (so much for my filing) but there is an article in the folder on road safety. I have no idea what it is doing there – maybe I clipped it from a paper.

I find a 12 page letter written by hand to a friend of mine in London who has just caught up with me after about 5 years. I was trying to fill her in on five years of my life and it took me twelve pages to do that. I had the time to write twelve pages because I was off work.

The last page in the folder is a letter from my consultant in Tallaght Hospital dated 10 December 2007 which read:
‘I am writing this letter on the request of Brenda to confirm that she has finished her treatment. Her disease is under control and she is recovering quickly. I feel that she is ready to return to work. There are no specific limitations but it is reasonable to reflect the level of her energy and to avoid direct contact with people having an acute mainly respiratory infection.’

I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma on 10 January 2007. I had been through massive doses of chemo, had my own stem cells harvested, received a stem cell transplant and spent 10 weeks in total in hospital and then on 10 December 2007 I was being told I could get back to my life - well my work life anyway.

I am glad I came across the folder this evening. I may file all the sickstuff in its proper place and then again I may just leave it as it is – like a snapshot of a year in which I came very close to being just a set of memories on pieces of paper.