FR BRIAN D’ARCY has described being diagnosed with cancer as both a ‘gift’ and a ‘warning’ that has allowed him to live each day fully.
The 69-year-old was speaking yesterday, Tuesday, at The Graan where he is rector, after it became publicly known that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The well-known priest has been battling the disease for the past number of months, after what should have been a routine prostate operation revealed cancerous cells.
“It’s not that I’m denying it,” Fr Brian told the Fermanagh Herald, “You can do a number of things. I’m lucky that I am able to reflect, it doesn’t scare me, it doesn’t depress me.
“It gives you the gift of looking at your life in a positive and a good and realistic way and that’s a real gift. Without it you could go on and think that you’re never going to end and forget the essentials. These sort of things remind us of the essentials of life and that’s a gift.”
The diagnosis came out of the blue for Fr Brian earlier this year.
And his initial reaction?
“It didn’t really scare me because anyone that’s looking at life should know it’s a possibility at my age prostate is going to be a problem and one of the problems may be cancer and it may not be.
“A guy of nearly 70 years of age getting cancer isn’t worth worrying about. It’s coming to the end of your time anyway, whether you live another ten years or another five years or another two years – it’s not going to be any more than ten years.”
Doctors are to continue to take biopsies every two to three months, while Fr Brian said that he has received a large amount of support including prayers and good wishes.
While it is clear that the priest isn’t allowing the diagnosis to dampen his spirits; physically he has been forced to attempt to reduce his workload.
He said that he is down from travelling around 65,000 miles a year to 45,000 – though admitted he could do with knocking off a few more if it were possible.
“Probably my biggest fault would be that I don’t take it as easy as I should. I’m doing my best but it’s not easy. It’s a warning – your own mortality is the biggest one. If you’ve a bit of sense you take that positively and say well aren’t you lucky to get a warning, and sort yourself out and make sure that the right things in life are getting the priority they should.
“You’re not a young fella, you’re not going to play for Fermanagh in Croke Park again. You sort yourself out and learn to live with the limits of your own humanity. That’s the bit I’m reflecting on. It’s not scary, any warning is positive because it helps you to avoid the danger.”
He went on: “I like to get to the dances and will do – but if I’m too tired on a Saturday night then I don’t go to Bundoran. Or if I’ve three masses at the weekend I say ‘No, you can’t do three masses and be out half the night in Bundoran’, that’s the kind of logic I’m applying to it and the main work comes first.
“The body is telling me that the main side effect is an inordinate tiredness, I just get really really tired out of the blue – I’m paralysed by the tiredness.”
In April 2012, it emerged that Fr Brian had been censured by the Vatican. While reflecting on his cancer diagnoses this week, he said that that time had a greater toll on him.
“It was difficult to cope with because it was a judgement on your life, on your mission and what you had done. You’d given your life to a church and the church was saying to me – you’re a heretic, or you’re in danger of being a heretic. That was a judgement of someone who had never met me. And that was far more difficult.”
But despite sicknesses, of which he said there have been ‘quite a lot’ in the last six years, he retains a positive attitude.
“Try to live today because tomorrow may not be there and you can’t spend too much time worrying about the past; worrying about being a failure, worrying about mistakes. What can I do about it? And then I spent too much time think ‘ what if’ – ‘if’ may never happen.
“We miss an awful lot of life by the past and the future, none of which we can do anything about. But we can do something about today, so why not do it?
“It’s not that I’m taking it lightly – when you’re 14 or 15 tablets every morning, and five or six every night, you’re running on empty, so you can’t forget. But you make the best of it and that’s all I’m trying to do.”
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