Learning from Illness (11) – Journalist in the Way

I’ve been a journalist for most of my adult life and, as that implies, I’ve spent time wondering about the nature of media and truth, and whether or not there is any correlation between the two. We journalists don’t set out to distort reality, and some of us do a fine job in exposing truths that many would prefer to keep hidden, but the journalistic process is still something that can tend to obscure. Continue reading »

Learning from Illness 9 – Health Insurance Hype

Once the fear of ‘something really serious’ had passed and I had strong painkillers to ward off any future discomfort, the whole nature of dealing with the disease became easier. It was simply a gall bladder problem, so aside from an operation which needed to be negotiated, there was little to inconvenience me.

I didn’t want to spend a long time on painkillers, however, because of the risk of getting to like them too much. And, I suppose, there’s a part of me that when faced with these situations wants to get them over with as soon as possible. Continue reading »

Learning from Illness 8 – Life and death

My GP had done his best, but without a scan, my illness was going to prove impossible to diagnose with certainty. Given the situation (that I was in regular debilitating pain and I had the money) it was easy enough to decide to go for a private scan. At this stage, the pain had begun to occur during the day as well as night time.

I mention this fact not to draw sympathy – which is irrelevant – but simply to point to the motivating factors that pushed this patient a particular way. It’s an idea that is getting a lot of media attention these days, but rarely is the problem discussed in terms of people rather than in cold, hard data. Continue reading »

Learning from Illness (7) Prompting the GP

We are supposed to be ‘learning from illness’ in this series, but so far I’ve been concentrating on my personal experience. Despite the fact that I have many skilled and experienced doctors reading this blog, no-one reading the blog has, of yet, come up with the answer to my problem. That, in itself, is not surprising. My own doctor – and he is also a skilled, experienced and caring professional – did not come up with my diagnosis. In fact, I prevented him. Continue reading »

Learning from Illness (6) No turning back

I remember precisely the moment when it occurred. Like people say they remember hearing about the death of JFK or 9/11, I can see, sense it, even now, clearly and vividly. I can be back there in that moment as easy as flicking the channel to the Magruder tape or the towers in flames. Perhaps the moment had less significance for geo-politics, but it was, for me, like those events – the turning point from which there was no coming back.

We had finished dinner (Chicken Castrol, as the five-year-old would have it) and all the preparations for the kids going to bed had been done. They had even brushed their teeth, and (theoretically) gone to bed, though, as any parent knows, that’s merely the start of a process, not the end. Continue reading »

Learning from Illness (5) Interruptions

When I said at the start of this series that I didn’t want it to be ‘a sentence without a period, a tale without a conclusion’ I hadn’t bargained, as most of us don’t, on anything happening to me in the future. That was a couple of weeks ago now, and my then future is now my past.

I had wanted to tell this story chronologically, because that’s the way it seemed to make the most sense, but even that wasn’t possible. I had to be ‘rushed’ (as they say) to an A&E Department last Tuesday in extreme pain, and therefore it was not possible for me to continue the story on the blog. Continue reading »

Learning from Illness (4) – The Sweet Taste of Happiness

Some of our most ordinary days can be so sweet and happy, yet the world fails to notice the smile that radiates from our hearts. That morning, when I was a student, walking back from her flat, down a sun-drenched Leinster Road in Rathmines, with no lectures all day, and the thought: “She loves me, she loves me, she loves me.”

The first time I saw that little head, that vulnerable little child, and the knowledge that he was perfect. Ireland scoring that try in 1985 against England after Fitzgerald has asked the team about their pride. When I got my journalism qualification. The day of no pain. Continue reading »

Learning from Illness (3) The beginning of Pain

In the last post I talked about the willingness (with some it’s a compulsion) to put a name on the thing that ails you. I tried to keep that in a humorous vein, but in this post I want to talk about my actual experience with amateur (and professional) mis-diagnosis.

I don’t exclude myself from this examination in retrospect – I was as guilty as anyone else in terms of getting it wrong, and, this is key, to wanting the diagnosis to be one thing, and not the other. Continue reading »