Next Wednesday, remember one of the health checks which could prevent serious illness disrupting your farming career.
Farmer Morgan Murphy and his son are putting in timber for the coming winter, sawing and hauling the wood in sacks from various locations on their farm.
Nothing unusual about that, you might think, preparing for the winter — except that it was only in April, a few months ago, that Morgan had major health issues, and three quarters of his tongue had to be removed, after it was discovered that he had mouth cancer.
“I had absolutely no signs of ill-health.” he says.
“I thought I was in pretty good form. But what happened was I broke a tooth, and I had to go to the dentist.
“He spotted it and that was it, hospitals, biopsies and surgery. Being a farmer, and used to being outside in the fields, that was hard. I can’t tell you how good it felt to walk my fields again.
“But farmers are very practical people, and I soon realised that there was no other way.
“And I was blessed with the care I received from some incredible people.
“I never realised just how much love and care there is out there. When I was in the hospital, I woke up at two o’clock one morning, to find a doctor adjusting my IV bag. That blew me away. It was round-the-clock care by people who were strangers to me.”
Morgan’s treatment was lengthy and complicated, involving a team of surgeons, dentists and speech therapists, all working together to ensure that he had the best possible outcome.
They reconstructed his tongue, using a skin graft taken from his hand, and then began the lengthy process of ensuring that he would be able to talk and swallow once again.
“I had to rest the new tongue for several weeks, and that was tricky, because I had to write everything down.
“I just had to hope that people didn’t ask me too many questions! ” Morgan remembers.
“I had tremendous support from my family, friends and neighbours, and that made all the difference.
“I never felt alone. It was a bit like going to your own funeral, people sending texts saying they were thinking of you, and they were sorry to hear what had happened.
“When I came home, there were some people who didn’t know what to say, how to deal with it. I’ve seen people turn away from me with tears in their eyes, and I’ve wanted to tell them not to worry, that I’m doing well now.
“What it has done is to make me realise that there’s more to life than I realised before.
“It’s not about killing yourself working. I have a deeper appreciation of what’s around me these days, something as simple as a bumble bee on a flower.
“I went to the library recently, and I took out “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. I’ve seen the film many times but I had no idea of how much more detail there is in the book. I’m having a few days off soon, and I’m really looking forward to going to the seaside, just sitting on the beach and looking at the sea.”
Morgan is also receiving radium treatment which, vital though it is, has caused him pain, and robbed him of his ability to taste.
At first, he could only manage soup, but then, as things improved, he decided to eat away from the family, as he found that he has to concentrate carefully on the act of eating and swallowing.
“It’s a terrible thing not to be able to taste your food,” he says.
“And I’ve always liked cooking. But I found that my sense of smell has become more acute, and that has helped. I was never actually sick. The only thing that affected me was the radium, but I was determined to see it through.
Morgan runs a suckler herd of 60 cattle, and with the help of his son, they were able to handle calving and save the silage before the treatment began.
He has another three weeks of radium treatment to complete, and it’s not until it’s over that he will know if it has caused any permanent damage.
“I’m already looking forward to the next calvings. When you see it happening, it’s incredible, the love and care the cow shows is very moving. I’ll never complain about work again.”
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