November is a month that I have had some great experiences in and some terrible experiences . The 25th of November plays a serious role in my life with 3 of these days in different years and one in a different century but all were life changing
Let me open myself up here to what I mean:
25th November 1994 (25 years ago)
My Dad passed away from Colon Cancer at the age of 65. He was only diagnosed in mid August of 94 and passed away on the 25th Of Nov 1994 and basically had only left hospital once for a couple of hours in those 3 months. I had spent Sept, Oct and November watching him fade away. The word Cancer in 1994 was frightening, few families were touched by this disease and the survival rate from Right side Colon Cancer was practically zero. It is fascinating to see how far modern medicine has come over the past 25 years. It is also great to see how awareness has opened so many peoples minds to using the word cancer – yes it is still a frightening word and hearing an Oncologist say “You have cancer” is amongst the most feared statements in the world, but I’m living proof we can beat it.
My Dad was an only child and was born in Derry in 1929. He was raised by his Mum in a small village in Donegal called Quigleys Point, he had to leave school early in life to support his mum who was quiet ill. After her death he moved to London to work where he met my Mum. They married and moved to Scotland finally returning to Ireland in 1960. He was a senior member of Fianna Fail the leading political part in Ireland at the time, he had chosen a back seat position as against an actual political appointment – this was a voluntary role . My Dad took up employment with the New Ireland Assurance company as a representative in 1961 – a job that he had only just officially retired from in July 1994, the month prior to his diagnosis. He had worked hard all his life to build a life for his wife and 3 children. As a father he was a very old fashioned strict individual. If you were out of line you’d get clip around the ear – sometimes I do ask if this was the better way but there is a thin line on correction. I was born 8 weeks premature in 1962 and brought up knowing if I was out of line I was in trouble. But no matter where or when I needed help he was there for me. He admired, in so many ways, my stubborn independent ways both as a child and a teenager, these traits are still with me today and most likely are the reasons I am still alive.
By the time my Dad passed away he had managed to own his own house in Artane Dublin. He had comfortable savings which help my Mum through the next 23 years.
25th November 1999 (20 years ago)
Lets Party like its 1999 – Prince
From the sadness of the post above to something like this on the same page is weird. In August 1999 I purchased, along with a business partner, a local in Puerto del Carmen Lanzarotte. It was a Gay German Pastry/Coffee shop. It was located in a far corner of a night life centre. Within months I had renovated the interior and exterior and created the legendary pub Nancy Spains – voted best local pub in 2000 and the biggest selling pub in Spain per square mtr for both Guinness and bottle Budweiser .
Nancy Spains officially opened on the 25th of November 1999. Another 25th I will never forget but this time it was not sadness but joy. I am actually smiling broadly writing this part of the blog. The photo below was taken on the 25th with Graham Mills (who managed the bar with me and led the nightly entertainment, an incredible person and a fantastic entertainer) Graham is on the left with the baseball cap The stage was full of entertainers that night that were showcasing their talents. Colin, Dex, Ken, Kevin, Martin, ,Mick, Robbie, Scot and many more took to the stage that night. All of them continued singing in Nancy’s for many years after that. We had a lot of locals in that night and a lot of tourists, many of who returned year after year. I don’t wish to name them as I know they wouldn’t like it.
Apart from the success of this business venture I made some great friends in this bar, most remain friends even to this day 20 years later and have stood by me over the past 5 years of battling cancer. It was also the place where Anita met me. She was on holidays with her Mum, Dad, brother and sister in law. She made the mistake of walking into my Lions den NANCY SPAINS, that was 19 years ago. Anita moved from the UK to Lanzarotte but returned home, we lost contact for a couple of years but ended up getting back together after my Sisters wedding in 2004 and we have been together and engaged ever since. Which leads me back to another sadness for November
November 2012 (7 years ago)
Mr Barry Webster
I first met Barry in 2000 in Nancy Spains, Barry was Anita’s Dad. An absolute gentleman. I had grown to highly respect this man, he felt more like a friend than a father in law. He was a Merchant Seaman and a Captain. I have some great memories of nights out with Barry, in Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal and his home in Wigan. He had retired in 2011 to France with Anita’s Mum and was renovating a substantial house in France. He had a massive heart attack which placed him in a coma in November 2012 and had passed away a few weeks later, never regaining consciousness, such a loss.
During my own renovations to the house I bought in June of this year I keep getting the feeling that my Dad and Barry are guiding me from wherever they are now. I know the kick up the arse I get every now again is from my Dad and I’d bet Barry is there saying “he deserved that”.
I miss these two men greatly in my life, like my Dad Barry was a call away if I ever needed help or advice. I know they both shadowed me throughout my battles with cancer and throughout the renovations.
25th November 2016 (3 Years ago)
In the early part of Nov 2016 I started to relapse, I had been in remission for almost a year from Stage 4B Hodgkins Lymphoma. The medical team had identified issues that they were concerned about. But at this point they had not spotted the new sites close to my spine. They had however spotted serious issues with my left kidney and early indications showed that they would have to remove the kidney, for a recovering cancer patient this was a seriously big operation. So they commenced tests but “recommended” the closure of my business as I would most likely not be capable of running a business. I don’t want to get too tied into the underhanded take over of the business by people I have known for more than 20 years. But their last contact with me was in Jan 2017 with the parting words “Nothing personal its just business” believe me everything in business is personal.
But the liquidation of my company was set for the 25th of November 2016. Ending some 26 years of self employment.
Thinking that would end the ongoing dramas created by Novembers – it didn’t stop there.
November 2018 (Last Year)
A number of quiet amazing things happened last November. First I had achieved my MBA in Business Studies, then I was placed formally into remission with the okay to return to employment. This was followed by an offer from my current employer JMC to open a depot in Cork for them. The basis of this changed somewhat in Dec but we did open on 2nd of Jan 2019. But the actual agreement to progress was made on the 25th of November 2018.
So the past 25 years have had their ups and downs. I remember shortly after my Stem Cell Transplant when I was on palliative care and slipping away – the words of My Way kept going through my mind.
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve travelled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill my share of losing
And now, as tears subside
I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say – not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way
For what is a man, what has he got
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way
Yes, it was my way
Songwriters: Claude Francois / Gilles Thibaut / Jacques Revaux / Paul Anka
I was never a Frank Sinatra fan but Elvis did a version of this song and I have attached a link below.
I actually sang this song on stage in Nancy Spains with Alison during one of her sets. If my memory is right that would have been 2002. I succeeded in emptying the bar…
For the people reading this blog that know me they would be very aware how close to reality this song is for me. I’m sure the 18,000 viewers that have read my blog would also agree that this song captures so much of my life.
The part of the song with “Regrets, I’ve had a few But then again, too few to mention” really sums up my life. I was dying in July 2017 a medical fact, I managed to survive and regain so much of what I had lost. But as I lay dying I remember smiling with the intense feeling that I was going to meet my maker without any regrets. That is some feeling in life and death. Yet here I am in 2019 telling the story.
We have lost so much in the past years, family, friends and loved ones. But we survive to see another day. I do dread Novembers.
November 2019 (This month)
As you can see this November has not really helped. The sudden unexpected attack on the 4th of November had felt like a stroke but turned out to be a Hemiplegic Migraine another nasty little bugger. I am currently on medication in an attempt to stop any re occurrence but as the Professor told me they are still somewhat in the dark when it comes to Hemiplegic Migraine but re occurrences can be even more dangerous. The medication is an attempt to prevent both the Hemiplegic Migraine and fatigue. I am on them nearly a week now and they are strong, I have been told that it takes between 10 to 14 days to kick in and that all going well I will be taken off them in January 2020. We have a good idea what triggered this attack, for a change, So the work now is to insure that the trigger is never pulled again.
Yet again this is not caused by Lymphoma as I remain Cancer clear – 860 days clear today.. and counting. The medical teams are very active on how the chemotherapy, radiotherapy and Stem Cell transplant have effected me over the years. The levels of both Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy were massive, so if they found a link between anything I have experienced they would have but thankfully none of this is related.
Think I might just have a pint of Guinness after all……..