DESPITE having lost both my parents at a young age and two aunts I considered to be more like mothers, cancer wasn’t really something I thought a lot about in terms of health worries until we lost close friend and Today FM colleague Tony Fenton in 2015.
Tony, as a person, deserves much more than I can fit into this column, but he was like no one else I have ever met, and I know I will never meet anyone else like him ever again. This included how he lived his life with cancer.
He had a few years of living with cancer and receiving treatments while still doing his daily radio show. I feel it must have been his oasis to sit in the studio, in which I was lucky enough to act a number of times as his producer, to talk to his audience, and to play the records he loved most. It was his escape from cancer I am sure, although he never said it that way.
Again, I find it hard to put into words the massive space Tony left behind in all our lives when he passed away.
He just made everything better, more exciting, and special by being around.
Losing a person you adore to cancer does make you think about it a lot more. However, cancer as a diagnosis has evolved so much and so many advances have been made that we now hear so many more stories of survival and recovery than we did in previous years.
Each year, Today FM runs a massive campaign in aid of the Irish Cancer Society called Dare to Care, raising huge amounts of money through the generous donations of our listeners, and every year, the stories of people who have overcome cancer are more and more common. Since 2016, we have raised €1,318,585.
Our view of it as a disease has shifted in part, again because of medical advances, but more so, I hope that we, as a nation, are becoming more proactive about our health which leads to early diagnoses.
When I first moved here in my early 20s I went for a physical and the doctor actually said to me: ‘What are you here for?’ When I said a check-up he then said: ‘Yes but for what? What do you think is wrong?’ I had to explain I didn’t think anything was wrong, I just wanted to make sure! From childhood in Canada we would have gone for an annual physical which started including taking blood work and smears each year, from say, aged 20 onwards.
When I ever talked about this with my new pals when I moved to Ireland, they would all say they hadn’t been to the doctor in years and a few by their late 20s had never had a smear, which floored me.
Now it might not be the best craic to talk about at parties, but throughout the years a lot of my friends have changed their attitudes and do make a point of seeing their GP once a year for bloods and a check-up now, which I think is great.
Speaking honestly, I am a terribly anxious patient so I don’t love going, but I feel it is important. Also, I feel it is a case of finding a GP you really like, trust, and feel comfortable with, which will be half the battle.
I know the main advice we all hear and it really is true, if you feel something isn’t right, or you feel a change anywhere, just go get it checked early. It is easy to put it off, put don’t, as it could make a big difference.