With a Little Help From My Friends; Paul Curran “The Invisibles” Part 1

While I’m off batting away demons, some friends have come to bat for me by sharing some pretty amazing survival triumphs of their own. I am so happy and grateful to share them.

Think you’ve heard of some tough years? Read on for a chronicle of unbelievable, stunning setbacks and lifesaving ennui.

This is a two-part tale of an incredible trip to save one’s sanity along with body by the beloved blog-o-sphere cheering and writing champion, Paul Curran.  

paulcurran2015.-2As I lay restlessly in the hospital bed, a plan began to form. I was here for internal bleeding, one of many, many complications that had cropped up from my cancer treatment.

It was under control but I knew what it meant – I had lost my right kidney, which we all knew was happening and came as no surprise. An ultrasound had confirmed that there was but slim remnants of that organ.

This had been a rare side effect of the radiation treatment – a treatment that was really a pact with the devil. In my case it was exceedingly effective and had destroyed the cancer, but it also created a list of horrendous side effects from the destruction of my kidneys to temporary impotence and many others in-between. I was now officially a dialysis patient and would remain so forever, barring a transplant. That was hard to accept.

This was the final straw, and the worst was that I KNEW it was not the end of the side effects – which the literature says can continue to appear up to 25 years after treatment.

quotation mark 1At 45, I would pretty much be at the end of my life before I’d be done with the potential lifespan of side effectsquotation mark 2.

In the preceding year I’d spent all my savings on a degree that I finished just in time for an economic downturn; got laid off from my job because with the new degree I was overqualified; ended a 12 year relationship which meant giving up my house; was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent radiation, chemotherapy and three operations.

I’d also suffered major treatment side effects including a colostomy, temporary impotence, a fistula between my bladder and rectum and then endured the many, many issues that crop up with dialysis such as multiple operations, scopes, colonoscopies, endoscopes, too many more to list.

Along with all of that, the engine of my car blew up. I was unable to work and with no funds left, I finally had to draw welfare.  The final topper, I had to move from where I was boarding because my landlady (not much older than me) died of a blood clot in her sleep.

I started drinking too much and clearly recognized that I was suffering from severe depression – certainly a state of mind that was natural given the few years of my life.

I had seriously contemplated suicide but didn’t have sufficient desire to follow through – sigh, a failure even at that. Ha! I needed help, of this I was sure and while lying in that hospital bed I decided it was time to get some help.

As difficult as my health issues had been over the previous few years, I had gotten excellent care and anything I desired treatment-wise was readily available. For instance when I came out of the last operation and recovered, I realized that they had cut through my belly button.

This meant nothing to me, but when my surgeon presented himself and asked if all was OK, I responded with: “My belly button is gone”! I was being funny, obviously having survived the cancer and surgery, my belly button was immaterial, but he took me seriously. “I apologize”, he said, “I can arrange for a plastic surgeon to rebuild your belly button and it will be covered under OHIP [the government health plan which normally did not cover non-life threatening plastic surgery].”

Invisible Beginnings…

Expecting mental health care to be as carefully and meticulously addressed as physical health care, I requested a psych evaluation – my intention was to eventually get sessions set up so I could talk my way through the depression and get a hand up back to normal.

In physical health care the doctors were so thorough that I sometimes had to turn down tests or watch for duplication. I had never requested help that I did not enthusiastically receive.

My requests for a psych evaluation went unanswered. I knew that the hospital had a whole psychiatry floor filled with patients and psychiatrists, but try as I may, I could not get one to come to my room.

After a week of asking daily, two interns showed up – doctors in training – who were not psychiatrists or even psychiatry students, but rather were doing a rotation in their training for a few weeks in psychiatry.

These students were typically kept busy doing case histories and such. I thought perhaps this was the route to a real psychiatrist, so I was cheerful with them and we chatted for an hour or so while they took careful notes. (They were humorous at times in their naivety and when I complained about the impotence, they asked how I knew.  Of course, I pointed out that I was sequestered here in the hospital so obviously it was an inability to masturbate – at which they turned all red, stuttered and moved to another topic).

And then nothing happened…

-Paul Curran

————— You can find Part 2 here ————–

45 thoughts on “With a Little Help From My Friends; Paul Curran “The Invisibles” Part 1

  1. Thank you very much for the opportunity to guest post Robyn. I am honored. i hope that your health and personal concerns are brought to a satisfactory conclusion and you come back to us soon. Get well!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You indeed are a survivor in the deepest sense of the word, Paul. Thanks for opening up here about your dark year of physical and mental alarm. I think the WP world will learn much about resolve and resilience.

    And thank you, Blog Woman, for giving our friend Paul your space as his significant and appropriate platform.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. This is a deeply moving post, full of the kind of strength that some humans are able to muster…. but not all of us… thank you for sharing… except for that last part… I could have done without that… HA!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The General Hospital here in Ottawa is a teaching hospital Art, which means that student doctors are everywhere. It is an accepted pass time to keep them on their toes by embarrassing them – it keeps their developing egos in line. Once they grow up from baby doctors to be real doctors their egos are so big it would take a nuclear weapon to dent them. Ha! Besides in the hospital body parts are just just that = body parts. Ha! I had radiation damage to my bladder and they were treating it by running a medicated wash through a catheter and back out again. IT was a very fast flow – it worked out to about 22 US gallons a day. I just had a pole with a pump and an “in” and an “out” bag – no pain or other issues. Anyway I was sitting in bed reading one afternoon with a blanket over my middle covering the lines and catheter. In walks a young female med student and I could tell she was tired. They had sent her to do a case history – very, very complex for me and not likely she’d ever get her tired head around with the limited knowledge she had at that point in her training. She started asking questions and each question lead to more questions and so on. She was getting confused when we got to re-routing the colon and she decided to move to simpler questions for a bit. Her first question was “How much urine do you put out in 24 hours?” When I answered, honestly: ” 22 gallons”, she closed her note pad , stood up and left without another word.


  4. Paul, thank you for not only sharing what clearly is such a challenging time in your life but also, for having the courage to keep moving forward & not succumb to taking to your life. To say that you are a survivor, seems to be an understatement.

    Robyn, thank you for sharing Paul’s story. I look forward to reading your post on the 14th.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You are the epitome of grace and resilience. This WP space is better because of you. I knew you had stories inside you –I’m so honored to be one of the fortunate to have crossed your path. Looking forward to Part 2 and more brave words. xo
    *Waves to Robyn

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much for your kind and thoughtful comments Mama. It is rather cathartic to share the challenges the world has presented. I rarely do so because it is hard to be open without sounding like I’m whining (both to my readers’ ears and my own).This recounting is only tangentially related to my life – just setting the stage from my own experiences to make a point about the sad state of our mental health care system. A thorough recounting of my life would include many challenges not mentioned here because they do not relate to the point. There are other issues that are even more serious than those mentioned (for instance peripheral neuropathy -a degenerative nerve condition that is a result of the dialysis and is untreatable and progressive, albeit very slow developing).

      Thank you for the compliments Mama – I cherish them. It has been such a pleasure meeting and exchanging ideas with you and the other Word Press writers. The honor is all mine.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so very much for your kind words Jean. The Irish Hug is greatly appreciated. I would have to say that Faith and Grace are the keys to self-awareness. Please give my regards to Stan – that handsome lad. 😀


  6. Thanks for sharing Paul. . I can relate to your illness to a lesser degree than what you have gone through. I just got released from the hospital for internal bleeding. It turned out to be a bleeding ulcer and was not related to my colon cancer operation a year ago or to my heart attack 2 years ago , nor the prostate treatment I endured 3 years ago. And thanks go out to my daughter Robyn for passing your story on to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am honored to have you drop by. Your daughter is a kind and wonderful person. I hope that she comes back to us soon. You have been through some hard times health wise yourself, I am glad you triumphed. During the process of getting well, it was made clear to me that friends and family are a critical component to the healing process. That was a new concept to me as I had always been a loner and had learned to depend on no one but myself. This lesson was likely the most important take-away from my illness – no person is an island.

      Thank you so very much for dropping by for a read and a comment. And thank you for bringing Robyn into this world – she is a blessing to us all.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You’ve mentioned your long-term ill health in the past, but for some reason I was surprised to hear about the depression – which, of course, is quite common for people who have suffered as much as you have. it seems like there should be a program in place to address mental health concerns, especially for cancer patients. I’ll be waiting to read the next installment and learn how you fought off that depression.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi CM! Thank you so very much for dropping by for a read and a comment – I always look forward to your participation. And you are exactly and precisely correct – cancer and other major long-term illnesses have a staggering emotional impact. I have to tell you it literally becomes so heavy that you would swear the load had a physical presence pressing down on emotions, thought processes, attitude, and even physical strength. It is debilitating. There are many many days when it seems an impossibility to even get out of bed,let alone take care of yourself. At one point I had been out of touch for so long that the hospital sent the police to come and see if i was dead or alive – and those bastards are persistent,let me tell you. The cops were actually quite funny once they go me to the door. The sergeant was cheerful and positive and started off the conversation with: “Good Afternoon! We are your dialysis chauffeurs. See that badge? It is the highly prized dialysis transportation specialist designation – and see there is an even bigger one on the car door. We’ve come to take you to the hospital and they told us not to take no for an answer.”

      I have made a lot of noise about the mental health component of long term illness and the lack of not only facilities but even recognition of the issue. When people are well and have never experienced the impact of serious illness, they cannot imagine how it tears you apart down to the very roots of your soul – leaving a shell of a body but no life. It destroys all hope.

      So, you’ll be interested in Part 2 – it is surprising. Thanks again for the read CM, So happy to have you visit.


      • Wow, those are some caring providers! No one in my area would ever send police to make sure a patient continued his/her treatment. They just let you die, if you’re so inclined.

        But I can understand the feeling, somewhat. After being ill for a long time, with little or no hope of full recovery, I think I would simply want to die and get it over with. My mother got like that at the end, once she was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. She literally begged us to just let her go, she was so tired.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Radiation truly is a pact with the devil. Well put.

    Some things are good to fail at. Know what I mean? A harrowing tale. One of my oldest pals just had a heart attack and is lying in the hospital as I type this. Who am I to be so soft and such a complainer when there are real problems like this out there. I need these reality checks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for dropping by Mark. It is a pleasure, as always to see you here. I hope that your friend heals quickly. Modern medicine can certainly have some nasty side effects. Some days it feels like I’m caught in a row of falling dominoes – each “cure” precipitating another problem. Hope your day goes well my friend.


    • Ha! I wish. Thanks so much for dropping by Ross. It is an honor to have you here – it’s not often I get a chance to be read by a published author like yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. We’re in this together, Paul. I appreciate that you read my piece, and quickly sought out your own. You’ve been through the wringer, friend. And you’re right, the cure is only part of the story. It’s chapter two, right after the diagnosis, but it’s far from the end. You’re a vivid storyteller and generous with compliments and a kind word. I look forward to part two and finding out if your impotence investigation yielded fruit. I’m a testicular cancer survivor, so that’s a particular cliffhanger for me…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Steve! So great to see you drop by. Thank you for the read and the compliments. **Bows in honor** Indeed the “cure” for cancer is just the beginning of a long road that has no clear end. It is a pleasure to meet someone like yourself. Thank you again for the visit – I look forward to seeing you again.


  10. Paul, thank you for sharing this story. We just never know, do we, the depth of each other’s stories. Yours, is indeed deep. Because you’re righting this, I’m under the impression you have climbed the monster mountains and are on the other side of all of these trials. I’m looking forward to part 2. I appreciate your humor and your courage through all of this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so very much for that heartfelt comment Colleen. I am beginning to suspect that this is a range of mountains that I am attempting to cross – every time I crest one,there is another one ahead. The trick is to get a good running start down the side of the one you just climbed so as to better make it up the next one. ha! My friend David has a more earthy metaphor. He says that when he is running full tilt through life and hits a brick wall, he crumples into the mud. Getting up, tending his wounds and brushing himself off, he starts running again and hits another brick wall. After a while it starts to feel like he is attached to the wall with a bungy cord.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Just call me The Phantom -ha! thanks so much for dropping by Hook. Awesome to have you visit. I actually wrote a post about the Phantom as a guest on Doob’s site. It is a funny story and I used that as a CB handle for many years. Some of the older hands still call me Phantom Please come by again.


  12. Wow. That’s a hell of a lot to go through. I’m happy you’re still with us!
    Okay, so is it bad that I’m stuck on the fact that OHIP covers belly button reconstruction, but they won’t look after our eyes and our teeth…?


    • Ha! That actually surprised me too but apparently the rule is that if they do damage in the process of an OHIP approved operation – for instance cancer – that righting the damage is included, even if it is plastic surgery. So, if you want a cancer operation, you too can have your belly button fixed.

      Yep, I’m happy to be here too. This post is leading up to a beef I have with the mental health care system, so it just includes the issues that are related – the rest of the story is even more complex than that. Part 2 posts Monday. I am honored you dropped by, please come again Linda.


  13. Pingback: With a Little Help From My Friends; Paul Curran “The Invisibles” Part 2 | Blog Woman!!! – Life Uncategorized

    • Thanks so much for dropping by for a read Aussa. I am honored. I hope all is going well with you and Alex and with your new job – gutsy to take a job with a start-up. I’ve often thought about that over the years but never had the guts. It’s all on you babe. What an aussome feeling – win or lose, you did it. You’ll be world-class some day Aussa and flying your private jet to your south Seas Island mansion for the weekend to relax. Folks like me will be able to say “Yep, and I knew her when the screws were falling out of her chair in the spare room.” Ha!

      yeah, anyway,interns. You know the Ottawa General is a teaching hospital so you kind of get used to the interns and can even have some fun teasing them. But what pissed me off was that no doctor even looked at their report – it was just filed. If a doctor had read it and either given them feedback or come to see me, I would have been fine with that – but nothing.It was done to keep my mouth shut and there was never any intention of helping me – the ratbastards.

      Anyway,thanks again for dropping by Aussa – all the best wishes to you and Happy Easter.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Happy Easter to you as well, Paul! We are all good over here. Just bought a bag of those evil cadbury eggs– I’ve been avoiding buying them until now because I knew I could only start eating them when they were on the brink of becoming unavailable.

        ANYWAYS. That’s ridiculous. And horrifying. The psych hospital I worked at was also a teaching hospital. Lots of work done by interns. Truly frightening for the patients sometimes :-/ Glad you were able to pull yourself through, despite their failings.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Mental health issues can’t be cured with surgery, or with cheap meds. They take time and money and effort from all involved, which means that it costs more money with no guarantee of success. I dislike to be so cynical, but it does seem that that’s how the minds work of those in healthcare when it comes to mental illnesses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi FHC! Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and a comment. There is some truth to what you say – I would also add that because the illness is not visible we tend to give it less importance. Whatever the case, it is a critical situation. I am honored that you came for a visit. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

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