A story all too familiar. Peter Biddulph was a reasonably fit and healthy man in his 60’s. He was working with his GP to keep his type 2 diabetes in check so his diet was restricted but otherwise he had no health issues. He was leading a near perfect life – working 3 days a week at his dream job in the Galway Aquarium and spending quality time with his wife, Marie-Noelle at their home in Clifden, Galway. When Peter first noticed some digestive problems he put it down to his new diet but as the symptoms grew he realised that all was not normal. He went to his GP and over the course of a few months, he underwent some tests. Meantime the symptoms worsened so by the time Peter went for an MRI and colonoscopy he suspected that something serious was happening. In the end hearing the diagnosis of colorectal cancer was a huge shock but maybe not such a huge surprise.
Peter remembers the moment well “you are going along fine with life and then you get a sudden reality check – you are mortal and the man above is watching you”. A master carpet designer, who designed carpets for the Dáil, Peter uses an apt phrase “The rug was well and truly pulled from under me”. However Peter goes on to say that what happens next is probably less traumatic than you might expect. “Everyone in the system is so incredibly kind and caring. I put myself in their hands and am following their treatment plan and just getting on with it now. It’s a mixture of oral chemo and radiotherapy currently, with chemo via infusion to come, followed by surgery”. None of it is pleasant but Peter is taking it all in his quiet, unassuming way. Above all he is grateful for the wonderful support he is receiving from the oncology professionals who are looking after him throughout his cancer journey.
Among the various supports Peter is availing of is the offer of accommodation at Inis Aoibhinn, Cancer Care West’s lodge at University Hospital Galway (UCH). Peter stays at our lodge Monday to Friday while undergoing daily radiotherapy. Recently in their effort to catch up on treatment schedules delayed by the cyberattack, UCH radiotherapy has been operating over the weekend too and Inis Aoibhinn has also opened its doors on the weekends with Peter staying a few Saturdays as well. “It’s a fantastic place to be able to come to each week. The nurses and carers are beyond kind. Two of my sons live in Galway so can visit me (under COVID restrictions) and my colleagues from the Galway Aquarium have been so fantastic dropping over and picking me up in the van and taking me to visit the fish – one of the great passions of my life”.
The staff at Inis Aoibhinn, like Peter’s colleagues and family, admire his quiet way of getting on with what life has thrown at him recently. His down-to-earth manner belies the severity of his condition but his grace and humour shine through it all. Day by day he is getting on with his treatments and we hope that very soon he is back to his “paid hobby” with the fish and back to his normal life with Marie-Noelle in the heart of Connemara. Meantime it has been a privilege to have Peter in our care at Inis Aoibhinn.