Say “Cheese” – It’s Today!


Growing up, this day, the 5th of December, has always been more special than others on the calendar. Being one member of a family of six, there were six of these such days in the year. Of course I’m talking about birthdays and today is my father’s birthday. It was this birth date that gave him his name, Nollag or Noel, and the coming round each year of this day also always serves as the push I need to get going with preparations for Christmas.

Officially now, Noel is an old-age pensioner (and I hope he won’t mind me publishing his age here) and a very proud recipient of his free travel-pass for use on Irish public transport. As he said himself, there will be no stopping him now, not that you could’ve stopped him beforehand anyway. Free travel or not, Dad has had itchy feet as long as I can remember and this year has seen him complete another St. James’ Walk in Northern Spain and his annual eight week voluntary stint in The Daughters of Charity convent in Mekelle, Ethiopia.

I almost forgot to wish him a Happy Birthday before he took the plane with my mother, back home to Ireland this morning. My parents have accompanied me throughout my breast cancer journey, providing the practical and emotional support I’ve needed at various stages along the way. I am so fortunate that they have been here to help out. I think, with absolute admiration, not bad for two “old-age pensioners”, who have more energy than me (for now!) and a vision only years of living experience can provide.

“Congratulations!” I said to my father at the airport and I really meant just that. Each passing year and birthday is an accomplishment in itself and worthy of celebration.


Since I got to know Carlos (sixteen years ago) and all his family, today the 5th of December has another significance for me. This day eight years ago, my warm and affectionate mother-in-law, María Josefa (Maruja) left us. I recall with fondness, among many other days, but especially today, her arm-linking on the street, sharing an afternoon snack of milk and roasted chestnuts in her white kitchen in La Cañiza and her roguish titter when she’d catch you playing Ludo,

” Vas tu o quieres que te llevo a casa?” (Will you go or will I send you home?).

I was the Irish girl who came to Spain to “hunt down” one of her twin boys, the last of her six children and I have always felt fortunate to be loved and accepted by my Spanish “political family”, as your in-laws are called here in Spain.


Today is a day for remembering my entire family, immediate, extended and political. Family is a unit, which I could not live without (literally), and which I think society benefits from too. I raise my virtual glass of bubbly alcohol to family and I look forward to the real thing at Christmas.


And finally this day, the fifth of December 2016, marks the “grand finale” of my breast cancer treatment. Today I will have my last radiotherapy session and my body will be given back to me, delivered in a rail-car, at the end of one very long, steep and scary rollercoaster ride. The journey is by no means over. I will take tamoxifen, my hormone therapy, taken in the hope of avoiding recurrence, for the next five to ten years. In January I will begin the biannual revision tests also for five years. And if this cancer does not come back by my 45th birthday, I will be deemed a “cancer-free survivor”.

I said on my fortieth birthday, which I celebrated in the hospital the day after my mastectomy, “roll on my forty-first”! And I’ll continue to say for the rest of my life,

“Bring on the years, the wrinkles and the grey hairs, the children’s “coming of age”, partners, grandchildren or whatever else my future and theirs holds.”


Thank you for following me here on my blog and here’s to life, health and living. I shelve my “pink cancer folder” and I park my cancer story blog in the hope that it stops here.

End of Story!


  1. Marian Ryan

    Congratulations Deirdre on this blog–it was great reading it and following your story.You are very talented in your writing style and I love the way you have with words. Maybe you’ll turn it into a book!.Delighted your radium sessions are finished and its onwards and upwards from here on.Looking forward to seeing you at the end of the month.Love to all your family.xxxx


    • deleanbh

      Thank you Marian. My blog has been great company over the last few months and I’ll miss writing I’m sure. But I have plenty to be getting on with. Looking forward to seeing you too xxx


  2. Ana

    Nice pictures, Deirdre!

    Thank you very much for sharing your most intimate thoughts and feelings with us.
    You could definitely write a blog about anything … Cheer up!
    But if not, I hope that in five years you reopen this to tell us that you have definitely overcome this terrible disease. Hopefully it will be like that!
    Keep fighting …. you have proven to be very brave.

    I received today the results of my ultrasound. The bundle remains the same, but they have found another near the nipple duct that is doubtful and must be checked periodically. Well, we always have to keep our mind on something …..

    Good luck, Deirdre! … I wish you the best, from the heart; you deserve it.
    Muchos besos y abrazos.
    Tu amiga Ana.

    P. D: Happy birthday Noel!!!


    • deleanbh

      Keep up the fight yourself Ana! I really don’t want to revisit this site anytime soon! Maybe I’ll write about something else…see you in the spring. Un abrazo, Deirdre


  3. Noel Brennan

    Congratulations, Deirdre, on reaching this significant point in your treatment and recovery, reminding all of us in times of trouble that ‘this, too will pass’.
    As I celebrated my birthday, grateful that I am in such good nick – ‘for an oul’ fella’ – I was also very mindful of the importance of family; needless to say, we were all delighted to be of some support to you, and to have that virtual glass of bubbly with you now. I am also reminded of what a close-knit family I have enjoyed over my lifetime, with so many uncles, aunts and first-cousins, supplemented by sundry nephews, nieces, in-laws and many more.
    I REALLY enjoyed reading your blog entries over the months, not least your poetic efforts, as you captured how you felt and what you were thinking at significant moments on your journey.
    To conclude, I could have chosen any one of countless Irish blessings, but it is enough to say to you and everybody, ‘sláinte mhaith, agus go mbeirimid beo ag an am seo arís!’
    (For your non-Gaelic-speaking followers, it translates as ‘Good health, and that we may all live to see such a day again’).
    This comes with much love to you, Carlos, Pablo, Ellen and Ana Maeve. X

    Liked by 1 person

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