Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving Thanks

"Ah there's yer wan again going on about her hospital appointment - JEEZ enough with it!"

Now I can understand people saying that about my Twitter and Facebook posts - another hospital visit post = YAWN!

I don't blame you, any of you for saying that, for thinking that because the reality is that I do post about my hospital visits a lot and that's for the simple reason that I am in hospital a lot.

I am under the care of the Renal Team and the Haematology Team in Tallaght Hospital and I also see a Dietician from time to time - being sick is almost a full time job, but I already have a full time job and loads of interesting hobbies so at times, it's hard to find the time to be sick.

Those of you who know me, know that I was diagnosed with Myeloma in January 2007. Myeloma is an incurable cancer of the bone marrow.

I am kept on a very short leash by the hospital - kidney clinic every six months and haematology every two months without fail. There are sometimes in between visits for issues and minor complications. I have lost count of the number of times I have been an out patient and inpatient.

A friend said recently that when she told a work colleague about all my hospital appointments, the colleague said: 'That's like a death sentence". A wee bit insensitive you might say but sometimes people say and do strange things when they learn of your illness and circumstances.

For me, it's a very small price to pay for being well.

So the reason for my post is that I recently had a scare when some proteins were found in a sample I gave at the renal clinic. Proteins are the villains in my Myeloma story - they are like the Lex Luther or the Joker to my Myeloma Superman or Batman! They are sooooooooo not good. The renal team admitted to me that they were being super cautious but at the same time proteins are proteins and so I was called in for a repeat test.

I  had to wait for a week for the results. Needless to say during that week every possible worst case scenario went through my mind. The Myeloma is on the march again and I will get the news just in time for my birthday and Christmas. Lovely!

  • What if I have to be in hospital for Christmas - away from Bryan and the kids? 
  • What if I have to have another Stem Cell Transplant? 
  • What if I don't respond?
  • What if there are complications and I can't have new treatment? 
  • What if.......? 

Myeloma is a dead weight that I carry around all the time and the what ifs are there all the time but in the last week they were magnified and in High Definition just sitting there in front of me.

Since my diagnosis and treatment in 2007, I have really gotten my life back and my diary is full of wonderful stuff. In the next month I am going to turn 45, I am going to be a judge for the new Oliver in the local Musical Society, I have Christmas parties and dinners, I have Santa stuff to do, I get to be a radio head twice a week now in KFM the local radio station where I get to interview so many wonderful people. I have plans in my diary all the way through to next Spring at this stage and the idea that the Myeloma might have come back means that all of these plans might have to get scrubbed out.

These plans are great to have but they all pale in insignificance when it comes down to it and what it would mean for my family. I don't want to be the Mom who is sick [AGAIN], too weak to walk up stairs, too weak to drive, too sick to get out of bed, so sick I have to be in isolation for a month in hospital and I don't want to be a sickly wife who places the burden of care and work onto my husband. It's unfair.

I had imagined the worst - that's what we do, that's what I do. I was preparing myself for the absolute worst case scenario. In a way I am constantly preparing myself for THE worst case scenario because it will be the case someday. I just don't want that SOMEDAY to be any day soon as I have so much left to do.

I have so much life to live and I have so much of my kids lives that I want to be here for. We have great plans for our retirement, Bryan and I, and I want to be around to be an outrageous old dear who wears purple and dyes her hair!

I was very relieved to get the news last week that the proteins are behaving themselves. It must have been a blip or something on the particular test. If only the people in the labs knew what these blips do to patients like me!

Thankfully I am still in remission. I have made it through another year of living with Myeloma. I missed some of my targets - I had planned to get through the year with no admission to hospital but that didn't happen thanks to a serious infection in March. But it's another year notched up. 7 years and counting......

I can look forward to my 45th birthday on November 29th, to Christmas at home with the family, to our 18th wedding anniversary on December 29th and to a New Year of great plans and resolutions.

I have a lot to be thankful for and I don't take any of the time I have for granted. I don't take the wonderful moments everyday for granted, the little things, the memories made are all so precious. That's a gift that serious illness gives ......... every cloud and all that .......

So next time you see me posting about yet another hospital visit, perhaps you will understand the significance for me of getting through each and everyone of these visits with a clean bill of health.


He made much of the time he was given

A piece I wrote for the Irish Catholic Newspaper in memory of Father Martin Clarke RIP who passed away on 23 October 2013: 

I met Father Martin Clarke for the first time at my interview for the job of Communications Officer with the Catholic Communications Office back in the Summer of 2000. I was nervous about the interview panel but he immediately put me at ease. I came to learn this was one of his many human qualities. I was successful with my application and began work as Communications Officer with the Catholic Communications Office 13 years ago this month, in November 2000.

At that time the Catholic Communications Office (CCO) was in many ways being established in Maynooth as a result of the merger between Father Martin’s office as Principal Spokesperson and the Catholic Press and Information Office in Booterstown. This movement and change was part of a much wider restructuring of the Councils, Agencies and Offices of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference that was taking place at the time. We had a small team of three people, so I had to very quickly learn the ropes of what was and still is a very busy office.

I joined the CCO just before we entered into a very challenging time for media relations and the Catholic Church in Ireland. But Father Martin was a wonderful teacher and mentor. He was patient and kind in the way he dealt with people. He had great attention to detail which he honed during his time studying and then practising law as a solicitor. When Martin gave me a project to work on, I could always follow the details because he had laid them out so meticulously.

Martin always had a wonderful rapport with young people and this obviously came from his work with Catholic Youth Care and Saint Kevin’s Young Adult Community in Dublin. I was always struck by his energy and positivity concerning all his pastoral responsibilities.

A late vocation, Father Martin was a happy priest and he was always willing to share his vocation story and journey as a way of inspiring others to seize the moment, to aim high. He was prayerful and spiritual and always took great care in his pastoral duties.

Martin had a great sense of humour and some of his puns were often just what a particular moment needed. He also had an amazing recall for quotes which he used to great effect in interviews with the media.
I worked with Martin from November 2000 to November 2003 in the CCO. Some of the big issues we worked on in those days were: Child Safeguarding, Policing in Northern Ireland, the 2002 Abortion Referendum, the establishment of Day for Life in Ireland and the 2002 meeting between the Northern Ireland Church Leaders and the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair. It was under Martin’s stewardship that the CCO began to embrace new communications and established the first website for the Bishops’ Conference. While times were challenging they were also exciting and Martin was always very encouraging to his staff when it came to additional learning and training.

When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 Martin was one of my first visitors. He sat with me and listened, he prayed with me and offered great support to my family. He encouraged me and assured me that there is life after a diagnosis with serious illness. The way he bore his own illness and the many health setbacks he had, was inspiring not only to me but to anyone who knew him.

I think I am a better person for having known Martin for just a few of his 66 years and the world is certainly a duller place now that he has left it. May he rest in peace.

Brenda Drumm

PS After writing this article I recalled a birthday present he got for me one year 'ABBA GOLD'! I am still playing those tunes Martin. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

There are Reasons

Guest post by my daughter Emma Tobin, age 16 

Things change and friends leave. And life doesn't stop for anybody. I wanted to laugh. Or maybe get mad. Or maybe shrug at how strange everybody was, especially me. I think the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and then make the choice to share it with other people. You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can't. You have to do things. I'm going to do what I want to do. I'm going to be who I really am. And I'm going to figure out what that is”. ~ Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Everyone is taught to be selfless. It’s something that people value, maybe because if there’s someone who’ll give and give and never ask for anything in return, that might make their life easier. We lean on people a lot, we really do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, there’s something infinitely right about that, but we have to remember that other people feel things too.

Do you remember when you were a kid and suddenly you were hit with the realisation that every other human being on this planet feels things as strongly as you do, everyone else’sthoughts are as wild and loud as yours? Everyone else has a smile they can use when they’re breaking apart inside, everyone else feels like screaming sometimes. Stephen Chbosky gives one of the most convincing and accurate accounts of growing up that I have ever read, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a book that everyone should read. Even if you’re a grown-up, it shows you that everyone, at one point, feels young and confused, and there’s nothing terrible about the fact that you might still feel like that.

There are so many people who just give and give, whose nature it is to bleed their heart out for other people, and if you’re not one of these people you cannot possibly imagine what it feels like when you’re bled dry and you realise that the people you’ve given everything to don’t give a damn. You cannot understand what it feels like to have someone you’ve bled for shut the door in your face and pretend that you never did anything good for them. I really hope you aren’t one of the people who leave, because it hurts, I can tell you, I know, when someone does that to you.

It makes me really angry when people do that, and it makes me really sad to have to pick up all of the pieces again. Please, don’t do that. Don’t be that person. You don’t want to be that person. Likewise, if you’re a giver, remember that you have a life to lead as well. Chances are you’re talented, beautiful, wonderful; you’re the kind of person people envy. You’re the idealist in a world of cynics.

There’s this wonderful quote that’s been floating around the internet, and it’s possibly the most accurate thing I have ever read, “The loneliest people are the kindest. The saddest people smile the brightest. The most damaged people are the wisest. All because they do not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they do”.

People have a hard time finding a reason to stay alive today. I refuse to ignore this; I refuse to remain silent on this subject.People. Commit. Suicide. They do it all the time, and most of the time it’s nobody’s fault, but we can all help the people around us. We all have the power to give someone a reason to live. We all have the power to make a difference. Don’t think that there’s nothing you can do. There is no ‘type of person’ who will commit suicide; there are just people, and those with no hope. People are not insane if they commit suicide. They are just in a very, very bad place.

If someone is beautiful, you tell them, just not down a dark street in a creepy manner. If someone has a nice smile, you tell them. If you see something in another person that they should recognise, and realise, and feel good about, you tell them that it existsPlease don’t use people. Be a friend, don’twalk away, don’t hurt people. It is not okay to hurt people. You have no idea what you’re doing when you decide not to care anymore. You may be the only person in the wide world left to care.

This may be difficult to believe, but I care about you. I care. I will always care. If you need to talk, I will talk to you, I will try to help. I will not walk away from you. If you’re having a hard time, talk to somebody. There is always someone who will listen, and understand, and care.

So don’t give up. There is always a reason to live. You just have to find it.


Emma Tobin

Copyright 2013