Two Belly Buttons



Remembering my studies and legal training helps instil a single-mindedness, but I have to turn my attention to the present. I’m surprised I haven’t received any counselling to help me through cancer. I was told I would be contacted by certain agencies and offered support, but no one called. I was left to handle what was happening to me. In one sense, this was good because I had to rely on my own resolve and come out fighting. In another, however, I could have benefitted from a counsellor so long as it was a constructive experience. I heard stories about counselling sessions focusing on death rates and mentally preparing for the worst. I would have reacted really badly to that frame of mind.

This is about survival, not beating cancer. Either you get through or you do not. And I’m determined to come through this. Thinking positive when faced with adversity means everything. If the cancer is advanced, do not think that is the end; if the cancer has not spread, do not think it will be easy. Patients with advanced cancer can pull through and people with cancer in its early stages can die. I am convinced this experience has made me mentally stronger. I believe that I have a future, but I still have cancer. My battle is not over. I brace myself because, although it has been tough up to this point, the hard times seem to be just beginning.

After the radiotherapy treatment is complete, I attend a clinic with Dr Gavaghan, who gives me a thorough check over and is happy with my progress. I still have the uncomfortable PEG in my stomach – the plastic feeding tube with a triangular blue plastic cap on the outside – and he confirms I do not need it any more. I had gone through agony and discomfort for nothing with this PEG because it was not even used for feeding. However, this is a step in the right direction.

I make an appointment with Mr Hogan at Bishop’s Wood Hospital. He breezes into the consulting room and asks me to lie down on a bench. No anaesthetic is needed, so he just cuts the tube, throws the external part of the PEG away and pushes the remainder into my stomach. It makes an impressive farting noise as it disappears inside. I stifle a laugh, but Mr Hogan is serious as he finishes the procedure. With that done, I go home and rest. The PEG hole above my navel heals quite quickly, but scars. My young son, Jack tells me: “Daddy, you have two belly buttons.”

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