1 Day, 2 Birthdays - No Cancer - Thank You Clare Clarke & Ladies GAA!
Yes, my wife and I were born on the same day - today the 1st of December! It's kind of funny because I'm not a birthday person - but I can never forget her birthday - it's like I was given a "handicap" to ensure I remembered. It works!
The best present we could have received is that after Barbara's cancer diagnosis 12 months ago, she is now, for the moment, cancer free. With 3 children under 8, the news 12 months ago was devastating. Having come to know many other couples who are attending funerals instead of celebrating birthdays together, I am writing this piece to say thank you to Clare Clarke and Ladies GAA who by sponsoring the CLIMB course delivered by ARC Support Services have helped our children and family as a whole in getting through this difficult time. I am also dedicating this blog to a very special father and husband, Michael Farrelly R.I.P.
It must have taken Barbara and I, at least 8 weeks from diagnosis to settle into any form of reality. I was incapable of assimilating the information and in fact I almost fainted during the consultation. The nurse had to open windows and ensure my air passages were free while my wife sat and absorbed the frightening news. So much for the man of the house. How would I tell the kids when I could not even handle it myself.
Back at home my wife and I were not able to agree on how to tell the kids. We could hardly talk about it. I shut myself down and went into work mode. I left barbara to figure this out herself. In the end, Barbara told our oldest against my wishes - my head was still stuck in the sand.
My only contribution was to have found a website in Australia which had a good methodology we could follow. We used the advice from this website to set a framework which we followed. However - with kids you really don't know what they are going through. They will keep their thoughts secret, they often blame themselves or believe the worst. They will often protect their parents from more anguish.
It was when Barbara was attending her Tuesday Meditation at ARC House on Eccles Street beside The Mater Hospital, that she was told of the CLIMB course. We were immediately interested in this for Julia, our middle child who is introverted and worried us the most.
Julia was enrolled in a 6 week course with other children aged 5 to 12. Julia is not the type of child who wants to do things like this. Barbara brought her on the first day and Julia shy at first, felt better after seeing other kids with their parents. After a few minutes, the kids dissappear upstairs - as if to some special place.
90 minutes later they arrive back. Barbara has spent the last 90 minutes resting in a beautifully designed victorian sitting room. She has had the opportunity to meet other parents or guardians and those lessons are for another blog post. Julia arrives down smiling and so do all the other kids. What happned asks Barbara? Julia answers... "what's said in the room stays in the room, Mammy!"
Julia made it to every one of those 6 sessions and I had the pleasure to bring her to 1 of them. It was eye opening. Recently, when they held another 6 week CLIMB course I brought our oldest Eva to all but one session. We cycled there together every Tuesday and she loved it. What goes on I don't fully know. I do know it's a type of group therapy - and I am a huge fan of that, having attended The Carers 10 week Course in ARC House myself - a genuine sanity saver.
So 12 months on Barbara is Cancer free. She had 5 months chemotherapy, lost all her hair, had a double mastectomy and is due some surgery still. She is fighting strong and is right now enjoying a massage from her favourite therapist of all, "Hud" who has new rooms at the Oval on Shelbourne Road D4. The kids they are great! Eva read here first proper book cover to cover last night, Julia is a panther of an athlete who WILL represent Ireland like her great uncles. Daniel our almost 5-year-old, he is a boy who knows how to hug Mammy when she needs it.
Clare Clarke, we are so sorry you are no longer with us. Your life and legacy has helped us and for that we thank you. It will continue to help hundreds if not thousands of families well into the future. I take this moment to also honour the life of Michael Farrelly, husband of Marcela Farrelly. Diagnosed a year ago at 40 years of age, with two children and a loving wife. I met Marcela 8 months ago as we attended the 10-week course together. Michael passed away last week - I have never been at a bigger funeral.
Barbara and I will live, as both Clare and Michael would have lived. To live each day as if it is our last.