Sunday, 7 June 2009

A Beguilling Service

I went to a funeral yesterday. Actually it was billed as "A Celebration of the Life of Audrey Clare". Audrey lived in the township (village). I first met her many years ago (probably about 35 when I came to Lewis). I went to the same Church as she did: St Peter's Episcopal Church in Stornoway. I was, for a while, an active member of that Church. In fact when I came to Lewis I went to the Episcopal Church on a Sunday morning and the Church of Scotland in the evening. After all I'd been a churchgoer from the age of 4 until I fell out with organised religion when I was 16. I returned to the Church when I was about 25 until some years after I came to Lewis when the behaviour of the Minister at the time became intolerable. Although I have never professed loyalty to any particular Church I had always called myself a Christian. It was only in 2006 that I lost my faith and became atheist.

St Peter's Church in Stornoway brought back many memories and the ambiance, the fellowship and the beauty of the service were beguiling. I can see how I believed in God; just as many before me have believed in many Gods. But for the time being reason provides a different answer.

Thursday, 4 June 2009


I am writing this before the 4 June because I know that, on that day, I may not find the words.

On this day back in the mists of time I was born. I'm not sure how I felt about it at the time but I'm pretty pleased now because it's been an ok life and I'm at a stage in my life when so many things could not be better. I count my blessings every day: I have food, shelter and friends and that's just the important things. I have a lifestyle many would wish for. I have a life relatively free of illness and pain.

For those things I give thanks every day. But whom do I thank? At one time the answer would have been obvious.


On this day in 2006 at 10.30 in the morning our first son, Andrew (who preferred to be called Andy) died of cancer in the Royal Marsden Hospital; London's premier cancer hospital.

My phone rang around 0930. It was Andy's number. I greeted him with the usual happiness that a Dad greets a Son on a Birthday. But it wasn't Andy. It was his Mum, Carol. She was staying in the flat all the time by then and I was just going down week on/week off when Andy was in hospital. Andy had been taken into hospital late the previous night. Carol had just had a call from the hospital to suggest she went in. I booked a flight (thank goodness there were Sunday flights from Stornoway in 2006) and made arrangements to meet our other Son, Gaz, in Glasgow. We would both then fly to London. I rang the hospital to ask them to tell Andy we'd be down by mid afternoon. Ten minutes after the call Andy died.

This year I have felt his death more acutely than I did at the time. This year the 4th of June will be hard.

For just over a year before his death Andy kept a Blog. I didn't know about it until after he had died. I think I'm glad. I read parts of it not long after his death. I am just getting the courage to read it again. It makes harrowing reading. His cancer was more unpleasant than some but reading his words makes me aware of what so many people suffer. It makes me desperately sad.

I miss Andy. And I know I'm not alone in that.

Which brings me back to whom I should thank for the life I have and Andy doesn't. When Andy died I lost my faith in God. Faith is not something one can convince onesself of. You either have it or you don't. I'd had faith all my life. Now I do not.

So every morning when I wake I am grateful that I do wake. And every morning I am thankful that my Doctor at the time (who now lives in New Zealand!) ignored the rules and took my concerns seriously and that the Consultant (who still looks after me) did the same. Without them my life would probably have ended before 1997 became 1998.

As Andy always said 'It's a funny old world, Dad.'.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Where The Sun Don't Shine

I start radiotherapy (in case you didn't know that!) in a couple of weeks' time. Am I apprehensive? I would have said absolutely not. But who knows what goes on in the human mind? Certainly the actual process doesn't concern me in the least. However I have been warned that there can be side effects. These seem to be classified as possible and more possible. Most of the side effects that I could have were side effects of the original operation and I've dealt with those. But there is one that could be a whole new experience. Now if you embarrass easily or are squeamish. Stop now. Not that's it's you who should be embarrassed. It's me. The fact that I'm telling you this demonstrates that my embarassment threshold is very high.

The likely side effect? A burnt rectal passage. Now you'd think that would be exceptionally unpleasant wouldn't you? But the oncologist assured me that it would just be like a baddish dose of sunburn. Now I don't know about you but the one place so far as I am concerned that the sun don't shine is up my bum!

Gives a whole new slant on a word I use rather a lot: bummer.

Monday, 1 June 2009

I've Been Tattood

I've never really been one for tattoos. OK, so other people have tattoos. Of course in New Zealand it's the norm and I just accept it but it's taken me a while to get used to just how many girls and ladies in the UK now have tattoos: more than men it seems. But I never thought that I'd get to this age and have tatoos myself. Well today I went to Glasgow and came home with three. And guess where they are? One on each thigh and one in a place where very few people outside the medical profession are ever going to see it!

Actually it's been a very odd sort of a day. I've mentioned how it all panned out on Eagleton Notes. But I didn't mention why I was in Glasgow. I was at The Beatson which is Scotland's centre of excellence for cancer treatment. It is there that I will be having my radiotherapy and it is there I went today for my positioning scans ie to determine exactly where they are going to point the guns which fire whatever it is they fire at one's innards to kill off the cancer cells. Well they'll hopefully kill them if they are where they think that they might be. After all they are only talking about a 20% chance of them being around the site of the original operation which is where the guns will aim. But, hey, 20% is better than 0%.

But although I've had a really Good Day one thing struck home. How very lucky I am. When I saw just how many patients at The Beatson were at Outpatients and how many were wandering round and obviously in-patients (why does one have a hyphen and the other not?) and how ill they looked I realised just how lucky I am. I'm not ill! I was by far the fittest person I saw who wasn't wearing an identity badge. Yes. I'm lucky. I'm very lucky. I don't have to play the Glad Game because I ain't got nothing to be not glad about.