A Preamble to Breast Reconstruction

Unexpected detours upset plans.  Just as I was about to write about breast reconstructions, for some strange unknown reason to myself, my mind has just now been diverted to a vivid memory of one such road diversion on a Spring evening about ten years ago, shortly after Carlos and I got married.

We had just bought our first and only house at the height of the property boom in Ireland in 2005. We bought what we could afford at the time, which was a small three bedroomed mid-terraced townhouse in a new development between Swords and Malahide. We moved in straight after getting married in August of the same year to a dusty, concreted floor, with nothing to our names but 8% of that house (back in the day when the banks still threw money at people), some black sacks stuck to the windows for privacy, a sofa bed, fitted wardrobes, a fully kitted-out kitchen and our lives packed into a few suitcases.

At the time, apparently, that was all we needed in order to live our lives in the capital. I managed to make it in to my new teaching job in Bray, Co. Wicklow, clean (it was a struggle to keep the dust off my work clothes) and on time everyday. Before having children, the hour-long Dart ride from Malahide to Bray, was a most pleasant part of my day, in which I read, corrected students’ work, prepared classes and never tired of the coastal scenery. If I had to travel that trip again, I’m sure my breath would still be taken away by the surprise of the beauty emerging from the Vico Road tunnel, coming from Dalkey and approaching Killiney Dart station.

Carlos, not working close to a decent public transport route, had the luxury of the red Nissan Micra, our first set of wheels. So sometimes on a Friday evening, when neither of us fancied yet another weekend of laying floors, painting or some other house-related job, we would head for the southeast to visit Noel and Mary in Dungarvan for the weekend. On those occasions, I’d stay on in Bray and wait for Carlos to pick me up. We’d take the N11 coast road, instead of the, then N9, which according to Dad, the expert on these things in my family, is shorter in distance but longer in time, due to all things pertaining to bad driving conditions in Ireland.

The evening was pushing on and we were coming in to New Ross and instead of travelling straight onto the narrow streets, which take you down on to the quayside of the river Barrow before crossing it and driving for a very short spell along the border of County Kilkenny, a diversion pointed us in the opposite direction. It took us up on to long meandering roads, through countryside I’d never known before. The diversion kept going, skirting outside the town, at what seemed like very wide margins, no familiar landmark in sight. I was hungry, tired and impatient to get home home, as ones birthplace is often called in Ireland.

And then I saw a sign, pointing off to the south, for Tintern Abbey. Wasn’t that the name of a poem in the Leaving Certificate Soundings collection of poetry? I never had to study it but for some reason I thought that abbey was in England. Wasn’t it William Wordsworth who wrote that poem? What was he doing in County Wexford writing poems about an abbey? Even still before the era of smartphones and instant accessibility to all earthly knowledge, I filed away in my mind the desire to look up that poem and find out about Tintern Abbey, in County Wexford.

I still remember that Friday evening, being taken on a winding diversion, the unexpected signpost to a place belonging to a flashing memory (of studying poetry for my Leaving Certificate) suddenly opening up my eyes to the golden hues of the evening sun falling on the gently sloping hills that surrounded New Ross. I could see the River Barrow from higher ground and it was spectacular in its new perspective.

I soon got home and spent my quiet evening in number 26. And I forgot about Tintern Abbey and William Wordsworth. And just as I was sitting down to write this post on mastectomies and breast reconstruction, my original first sentence about detours, life and a mastectomy brought the memory of this unwelcome and unexpected detour around New Ross in County Wexford rushing back to the forefront of my mind, as if to bring some new significance to this instant of my life.

So Tintern Abbey had been filed away until now. I have read the poem: http://www.rc.umd.edu/sites/default/files/RCOldSite/www/rchs/reader/tabbey.html and how relevant to me are its sentiments of passing time and the change effected in ones interior by the maturing process. The mother abbey (Tintern Major) that inspired William Wordsworth to write this poem is in Wales.

Its smaller and far more modest daughter abbey is out on Hook Head in County Wexford.  It is also known as Tintern of the Vow because of the noble promise, the patron of the Welsh abbey kept upon becoming marooned by a storm off that very same Irish coast.

Resultado de imagen de tintern abbey wexford

So what have all these ramblings on diversions and Tintern Abbey got to do with mastectomies and reconstruction? Well everything and nothing really as far as I can make out. On writing this post, I was reminded of a detour, which has taken me on another detour.  Whether or not it has been pleasant is a matter of taste and opinion but I’ve enjoyed taking a ramble, remembering a memory of a memory and seeing this diversion out to its conclusion in Tintern Abbey (albeit ten years later) in County Wexford and a poem by William Wordsworth.

It was certainly unexpected. I’m supposed to be writing about breast reconstruction but instead I’m left with a meandering blog post about everything to me and nothing and a feeling of inner contentment at sharing a sentiment with a bygone poet.

I’m finding out a long and difficult way that life is full of unexpected detours, which seem to upset plans.  But my excess of thinking time is leading me to a different conclusion.  Perhaps, after all, my plans have been my life-long detour and this meandering path, cancer and all, are all part of the bumpy way.  Maybe life isn’t meant to be planned into a smooth ride down-hill.

My repeated experience of meandering detours is showing me that the circumvention of the plan slows down the gallop to whatever finish line we care to see in the distance.   My eyes become more widely opened to the reality that’s around me now.  And when displayed from a new perspective a spectacular beauty is revealed, one that was always there but just took a diversion to view it in a different light.


  1. Marian.

    What a lovely detour!!! Congratulations on all your beautiful writings,your some woman.
    Jim and I off to Holy Land this morning and will be thinking of you when we visit all the holy sites. Love to all the family. Xxxx


  2. Noel Brennan

    Deirdre, I had to come back and read your post again, and I am reminded of all the Colligan woodland walks we enjoyed when you were young; and romps through heather in The Vee or strolls by The Towers near Lismore.
    I had to read Wordsworth’s poem again, too, but this time I read it aloud, and basked in the lovely pentameter rhythm of classical poetry. When I was seventeen and in school I had little appreciation of such wonderful odes, so I can enjoy them all the more now in my ‘mature’ years.
    My recent walk across your adopted country gave me plenty of time to reflect on the beauty all around, on life’s vicissitudes, on the ‘diversion’ visited on you – and how you are coping so well – and on the myriad ripples which upset the pools of our lives.
    Well done on another stimulating piece, and I hope that you continue to entertain me in this fashion. I particularly love the variety, and the fact that you are keeping us readers away from morbid contemplation of your (often unmentioned) ailment.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s