This week I have a very special blog post by fellow Choc Lit/Ruby Fiction author Sue McDonagh. I know and love Sue in real life and don’t see her often enough for my liking, so I was totally unprepared to sob my heart out when I received her blog post entitled The Day that Changed My Life. Over to Sue …
Warning – you will probably need tissues!
I woke up in a single side ward, feeling weirdly pinned by the oxygen mask, drip and something on my stomach, none of which I’d had yesterday.
My best friend, Terry, was standing at the foot of the bed. She burst into tears as she met my eyes. I swivelled my gaze to take in my parents, alongside me. They looked grave.
Dad said, ‘Sorry Sue, it’s bad news. It’s cancer.’ I had just turned twenty four. It’s weird to think of it, but I was almost relieved.
I’d spent a fortnight on a hospital bed, with my stomach grown to the size of a full term pregnancy within that time, and various doctors shaking their heads and pronouncing that ‘my womb was tipped backwards. We want you to lie on your stomach and drink lots of water.’
What kind of quack remedy that was meant to be, I never discovered, as once I’d drunk litres of water, the giant tumour inside me blocked all the exits so I never managed to wee any of it out.
The turning point came when I asked the nursing sister on duty for a sick note to give my sergeant. I was in the police then. She told me, ‘we don’t give sick notes to people who swing the lead.’ Unbelievable. Thankfully, not all nurses are like her. Most really are angels.
They told me I could go home, as ‘there’s nothing wrong with you.’ My stomach had protruded so far by then that the loose, button through skirt I’d been admitted in was about twelve inches apart. In a week. As some of the guys from my shift sauntered in, wearing their uniforms, to visit me, I had a meltdown, kneeling on the bed with that skirt in my hands.
‘There is something wrong with me,’ I snarled, ‘and I’m not going anywhere until you find out what it is!’ Then I burst into tears. My mates muttered something about it not being a good time and backed out. I can’t really blame them. I can still picture it in my head.
Even after that, it was still a good few days before they sent me to be scanned. I came back up to the ward and they sent me back down for another one straightaway.
And then they said they’d found something, and I might need a hysterectomy. Definitely surgery. When? The following morning. Seriously? The previous week they were sending me home and now I apparently needed an emergency hysterectomy? I was twenty four! Single, childless, but with dreams of a family in the future.
My parents had gone camping, clearly also not believing that anything serious could be wrong with me. I was a fit policewoman. I thought nothing of cycling a hundred miles a day, and walking the length of the county with a tent on my back. How could there be anything seriously wrong with me? I rang the police station and asked the other WPC, Jo, who happened to be working the front desk, to track my parents down wherever they were camping. Both of us were in tears at the horror at what was happening to me. To their huge credit, they did find them. The next time I saw them, was the following day, after my surgery. The surgeon came in later and told me they’d taken a biopsy and to expect the worst. I had ovarian cancer, and it was not a very encouraging prognosis.
Well, I didn’t die, and that was a surprise to my oncology team at Barts Hospital, London, where I was transferred. I was lucky, and I had the best team in the world.
If anyone knows Dr Maurice Slevin, and Mr John H Shepherd, tell them I’m still here, and I still have so much living to do! X
Me as a Police Probationer at Training College, 1977, with some of the other girls from different forces. Spot which one is me!
Me on my motorbike with my camper van, packing my life with as much as I can!
My career as a policewoman in the Essex Police was interrupted when I was twenty four by ovarian cancer. A year of surgery and chemotherapy meant a successful recovery, which led to a convalescent year in the Essex Police Press Office. This suited me as I’d always fancied being a journalist, and meant that I could play with joined up writing and stationary.
When I moved to Wales to marry a man widowed by cancer and became instant mum to his two little boys, I used my Press Office skills and wrote press releases and eventually, blog posts for the various clubs and organisations I was involved with.
Art evolved into a full time occupation and I made a living teaching and sketching portraits on the spot at agricultural and seaside shows, moving into more considered work as time went on and appearing on Sky TV in 2014 in the regional finals of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year.
I now work almost exclusively to commission, but also give demonstrations and talks to art societies and other groups, which I enjoy.
In 1982, following chemotherapy, I cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End in ten days, fundraising over £8000 towards a cancer scanner for St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where I was treated.
After my first hip replacement sixteen years ago, I and three friends took part in the Four Inns Challenge and walked 45 miles across the Peak District in 16 hours, raising £10,000 for MacMillan Cancer Support.
When my second hip needed replacing, I thought about commemorating it with a further bonkers fundraising idea, but to everyone’s relief, found my excitement in writing.
Ten years ago I learned to ride a motorbike, and now help to run Curvy Riders, a national, women only, motorbike club.
I live in Wales, a mile from the sea. My Border terrier, Scribble, comes to work in my open-to-the-public studio/gallery with me, and thinks the customers only come in to see him. Sometimes, I think that too.
When I’m not painting, I’m writing or on my motorbike.
I belong to a local writing group and the Romantic Novelist’s Association.
To keep in touch with Sue, you can use the following links:-
ChocLit Author page: https://www.choc-lit.com/productcat/sue-mcdonagh/
My blogspot: http://suemcdonaghwriter.blogspot.com/
Sue‘s latest novel Escape to the Art Cafe is out now:
Heartbreak and cake at the Art Café …
It was meant to be the perfect romantic holiday. But then Flora Bexton’s boyfriend does the unthinkable, and she responds in the only logical way: she steals his motorbike and escapes for a holiday by herself on the Welsh coast.
Far from the lonely trip she imagined, Flora soon finds comfort at the friendly local Art Café where the legendary hot chocolate and cake help to ease her troubled mind. And when Aussie-Welsh lifeguard Jake Foley steps in just when Flora needs help the most, she realises that her ‘holiday’ feels more like home with every passing day …
Links for Sue‘s books:
I told Sue that she had made me cry when I was preparing her blog and this is what she said:
I’m sorry I made you cry!
It’s a shocking story though, and even as I write it, it still feels horrific. Some things really do stick in your mind. But hell, I survived and it made me strong and now I use all those experiences in my books.
It’s why I always feature stepchildren, and how life threatening illness changes your life.
What a fantastic attitude and I’m so glad you are still here, Sue! Mx