If my Da had been given a chance to get cancer before it got him, he would have taken it. He would have said “No problem. Stand back. Let me have a go at it.”
He would have hit with a lump hammer. Or a chisel. Or a mallet. Maybe he would have used his electric woodplane, a fearsome machine that could take half an inch off the side of a mahogany door with one WHOOSH. That would have softened cancer’s cough. If he’d really, really wanted to get it, though, he would have smashed it to bits with the Kango hammer, his low-slung, one-man weapon of pneumatic destruction; think Arnie holding the Minigun in Terminator 2 and you get the picture.
When he had done with it, he would have thrown cancer on the floor and jumped up and down on it, as he did with the many wood splinters he removed from his fingers. The most troublesome ones were invested with a personality of their own. “You bad bastard. You little bollox. You sleeveen. You swine.” As if they were sentient, and doing their conscious, knowing, splintery best to burrow away from the tweezers or place themselves on purpose in the most inaccessible spots.
Eventually, after a lot of swearing, the splinters would be removed. Over the years, so too were metal shards from eyes, caustic lime off hands, sawblades from cuts, nails from fingers, and skin from knuckles. One day, he removed a thumb while using a woodworking machine. He drove himself to hospital, loose digit in plastic bag on the seat beside him, and they sewed it back on. “Thumbs up, Doc.”
What could not be removed, however, not by tweezer, chisel, pin, nor fingernail was the tumour on his liver. It was inaccessible. Inoperable. A bad bastard.
As you might gather, for most of his life my Da was a hardworking, strong-backed man. He wasn’t at the end. 16 stone became 6. The master carpenter, joiner and builder who didn’t like sitting down was too weak to stand. Tools left out of their boxes. Wood going to waste. Life coming to a premature end. In his last week, I think he heard the words we eventually found to say to him. “You did a good job, Da.”
I’d like to get cancer because it got him. He deserved more years after all the years he’d put in. So I’m going to donate to the Irish Cancer Society, and volunteer to help on Daffodil Day. If you’re reading this, I hope you will, too. There’s lots of work to be done and, as my Da would say, “It’s not going to do itself.”