Thursday, May 30, 2013

Happy Stem Cells Birthday to Me

This day six year's ago I was spending the first of two days in Saint James's Hospital in Dublin having my stem cells harvested as part of my treatment for Multiple Myeloma - a cancer of the blood/bone marrow. 

It was cutting edge to watch all the machines and the stem cells literally being sucked out of my blood as it was taken out and put back into my body through my central line. The care I received was fantastic and we had great fun despite me being sick with nerves and still a little sick from the chemo I had received the previous week. 

I was one of the lucky ones whose stem cells mobilised and were harvested. After two days on the machine they had harvested enough for not just one, but two stem cell transplants. 

The first of the stem cells in their little bag of life 

It was an extraordinary challenging and yet miraculous time for me and for my family. Each part of the treatment had its own side effects and problems but it was all well and truly worth it. 

I spend two weeks in hospital for the process of harvesting my stem cells and the second day of harvesting was on the Friday of the June bank holiday weekend. Even though I had been on the machines and had a very intensive day I persuaded them to send me home on the Friday evening - day two of the harvest - so as I could be around family for the long weekend.

On the trip from Saint James's Hospital back to Tallaght I was very woozy from the drugs and the effects of having my blood taken out and put back in so I said to the ambulance driver 'I would be a cheap date tonight - one drink and I would be singing' and he very quickly retorted 'what time will I pick you up at?'. It's funny what you remember from a day like that. 

Me and My Collected Stem Cells May 2007 

Here's to my wonderful stem cells which worked and which kicked cancer in the butt and here's to my stem cells waiting patiently for me in Saint James's should I need another transplant.

Onwards and upwards [well once I have today's hospital visit over]. LOL

Happy Bank Holiday Weekend and here's to health, the only wealth you ever need. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cherishing Childhood

Our childhood is what makes us who we are, and it’s also what sustains us when we enter into the sometimes crushing reality of adulthood. This world isn’t easy to live in. The monsters you once thought hid under the bed don’t hide anymore, they walk the streets, and they are every bit as frightening as when you lay huddled beneath the bedcovers at night after a bad dream.

When you grow up, you enter into a world of jobs and mortgages, a world of endless responsibility; a world that can gobble you right up if you let it. You learn that bad things do happen and that they happen every second of every day. As you grow up you begin to learn about the past, and the depravity of your own species through the ages. The boogie man comes knocking at your front door with a gun and a smile, and life stops being fair and becomes ugly.

It’s easy to get lost in the big bad world, which is why your childhood is so important. It lets you exist in a time where things are simpler, where you see the world through a keyhole and the grass is green right where you stand. You get to exist in a place where all the fairy tales are real, when you might still get your Hogwarts letter, where life is made of wonder and you don’t scare so easily.
But once you grow up the simple truth is that life can be hard, brutally hard, and you need somewhere to go, memories to sustain you when it feels like you’re being suffocated under the life you’ve made for yourself. You need to get be able to remember back to the days when you felt you could be anything in the world, from a princess to Pok√©mon Master. You have to be able to remember when the world was an idea, when the doors were opening instead of closing and when every crack and crevice was full of magic.

But sadly there are many people who had their childhood taken from them, whose lives have always been complicated. These people deserve to be given a chance to salvage their own childhood, and they can’t do it on their own. Those of us who had a happy childhood have to help them, have to allow them to enter into our world. Force them to watch every single Harry Potter movie and make them read the books you read when you were a kid. Bring them to the beach and make them build a sandcastle, give them the memories they never got to make.

The gift of a childhood is the greatest gift you can give another person, because within it lies the pathway to everything else, the basic understanding of love and the simplistic goodness that we all need to fall back on. We could all use a little childish logic now and then, giving things because it’s right, not because you want to look good, doing things without expecting anything in return.

Maybe your childhood wasn’t perfect, maybe your life has never stopped being complicated. Maybe your parents taught you things you wish you didn’t know. Regardless of the lot you were dealt as a child - as an adult, as a parent you have to be the one to teach your children what you wish you had been taught, and you must always be mindful of the millions of children in the world today who have no childhood because their world is consumed by war and poverty. Their world is broken, shattered, along with every dream they ever dared to dream.

English poet John Betjeman said, "Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows."

Cherish your children and give them a childhood worth remembering, because it’s the foundation that holds them up.
Children and young people reading this – you too must cherish and do your best to enjoy your childhood – you owe it to your adult self!

Emma Tobin

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Being Young

Guest post by Emma Tobin

Being young today isn’t easy, because it means being massively stereotyped, it means being prejudiced against. We’re viewed with scorn because of what we do, because we spend time on Facebook and Twitter and because we don’t give our elders respect they haven’t earned. We’re seen as a bunch of atheists who live in a world where evil is glorified, where violence reigns supreme. We can’t shop in large groups, because we’re seen as a threat.

That’s the brush we’re tarred with, and that’s what’s expected of us. We have opinions, we’re smarter than people give us credit for, yet still it’s presumed that we are slaves to fashion and the constant victims of peer pressure. We’re viewed as invertebrates - bowing under social pressure, unable to stand on our own two feet, more likely than not to drink and take drugs.

That’s not who we are. We are the people who will have to search for peace, because we know that war is no longer the answer to every little problem, we know that bombing each other is not the only way to settle an argument. We’ve grown up in a world plagued with nuclear threat on all sides. Everyone is packing now, because for a long time that’s been the only way to be safe; the promise of mutual annihilation. We’re the people who will have to find a cure for cancer, who will continue to save and preserve human life.

We are not the people who will waste away in virtual worlds; we are the people who will take virtual reality further than anyone has gone before. We will make the future masterpieces in film, we will write the classics of the future; we will be the pop stars, the rock stars, the singer/songwriters of the future. We are not the dirt under your shoe, we are the ground that will hold you up when you grow old, we are the people who will actually give you your pensions. We will be the honest bankers; we will speak the words that will change the world.
We are the young, and the stupid, but we are not delinquents, and we do not deserve your condescension, your mistrust. We will learn from your mistakes and build a better world for ourselves. Right now, we’re the people you think you can look down on, but in a few years we’ll be you, and you have a choice to teach us to appreciate the young people who will take our place, or to be just like you. You are the people with the choice to make. You have the power to empower us, and to empower future generations.

Being young has never been easy, but it doesn’t have to be impossible and it doesn’t have to be so hard that we do everything in our power to escape it. You can give us the power to be noticed, to be heard, make us responsible people who don’t need to turn to alcohol to feel grown-up, who don’t need to turn to drugs to escape the world you’ve made for us. You were young once. I mean, you’re the people that The Breakfast Club is based on, so you know how we feel. We’re not criminals, we’re the start of a new age, and you have to accept that even though we seem alien, we’re going through the same things that you did.

We strike out against the world because it seems to close in on us, drowning us in rules and quashing our every attempt to express who we are, who we’re turning into. We don’t walk around shops wondering what to steal; we wonder what will look good on us. We don’t look at you and see victims; we look at you and see people who were just like us once, just as scared and confused, turning to music to make us feel alive because we don’t quite know how to live yet.

We’ve had it proven to us one hundred times over that children can’t rule the world, and we’re not asking you to hand over the reins to us. We just want the right to grow up in a world that appreciates us, that really listens to us and that isn’t so afraid of us that we have to be ruled with an iron fist. This is your world right now, but one day it will be ours, and you need to consider just what you want the future rulers of the world to be like.

Do you want them to be criminals, or do you want them to be smart, confident people who aren’t afraid of becoming like you?


May 2013

Emma Tobin is my daughter and she is 16.