Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Walk to Now

Below is a piece I wrote this summer for the Scoil Acla Writer's Workshop. In short, it is a light-hearted and positive piece on living with both chronic scoliosis and a mild muscular myopothy, whilst growing up under the mindful care of Temple Street Children's Hospital. My approach to life is summed up in the title of my blog. Living with a disability is something I haven't written about on the blog to date - but I do hope that this post illustrates the approach I have - that the glass is always half full and to breathe in all these silver linings. 

(Letters marked with * beside are the names of villages I wished to keep private, enjoy!)

We all have goals in life, be it big or small – long-term or short-term. Whenever we fulfil these goals, a blanket of euphoria comes over us almost. We are safe in the knowledge that we set our minds to something, we persevered through it and now at the finishing line – we can appreciate what has been achieved. It’s a universal feeling; you don’t have to be a brainbox to experience it. Imagine if one of your wishes was to walk that little bit farther on your regular route you take, to sit a bit longer in a chair that isn’t your own, to attend a full day at school or work. Put this regime on repeat – over and over again. It’s like putting your life in a shuffling mode, trying to skip to the good bit.

As I would take my first few tender steps out of my hospital bed, despite all discomfort, it would feel great. It’s a symbolic moment that means, “Right kiddo, this is it. Next stop, Biddy’s Corner”. Encouragement from the people around me helped to sweeten the deal. “Good woman yourself” would be drumming in my ear before I got to the end of the corridor. Next thing you know, every other patient on my ward is on their feet. I remember when I was six, first time I walked after my first spinal operation – I could hear the blood pumping in my ears, and I walked to that beat. To this day I still walk in a similar fashion – a consistent rhythm, and it doesn’t seem to let me down.

I was always sure to show my face in my local supermarket as soon as I could, to bump into people who had been asking after me or lighting the odd candle. Mainly to confirm that a) I was alive and well and b) to show off how many centimetres I gained in height. Usual chit chat would start, followed by;
“Wait til I ask you, who’s your surgeon? Oh right yes. He sounds awfully smart altogether? Sure look at you! God bless his two hands. And where is he from? Is he married? Any kids at him?  I have a bit of an ache in the back meself, I’ll have to pay a visit to the GP and sort it out. Our John suffers the world with his back, God bless him, the creature.”
 You just have to smile at these things, avoiding temptation to whip out your titanium rods and giving them a clatter between the ears.

            Having been through the procedure 50 times of surgery, recuperating, surgery, recuperating spanning almost 10 years, I have learnt to be patient. Everything will happen in its own time, I have had to let things take its course. My first few walks were always brief, remaining in my village of A*. Every day edging that bit closer to the neighbouring villages. After a number of weeks – I would venture to C* and up home on that demanding bray at Biddy’s Corner. You can only try to do better than what you did yesterday.

            These days, I walk from A* to C* to B*, the full length of Dooniver beach or cycle “The Block” around B*. Not so long ago, I was out with cousins, walking. I asked Kate “How far do you think we’ll go?” Always remaining vague, replied “We’ll have a gander and see where it takes us.” Trying to remain in the “gandering” spirit, I walked, and walked. Some time later we ended up in Dooniver, past the hills, down by the school and on the home stretch to a free house at Granny’s. I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but I would point out I was the fittest fiddler of the four of us. It was only when I got home, that I realised how important that day was. Two years ago this would have been unheard of.

            Although the numbers in kilometres mightn’t mean much to you, they mean the world to me. It is astonishing to fathom that I have gone from bed-bound many a time, to Dooniver bound.

            This life is all you have, this is your lot. They say life is short, when in reality – living is the longest thing you’ll ever do. You have nothing to lose by simply trying, only a pocketful of time. We have a tendency to put ourselves down, put things off, and discourage ourselves to go the extra mile. As Kate put it, if you don’t have a gander, you’ll never know where it could take you. Sometimes it’s about learning to dance in the rain after a storm until the sun peers through, breathing in all these silver linings. This is the hand that I have been dealt with, and I have made peace with it. And it is to this end that I have learned to celebrate my own uniqueness, and everything it entails.

Catherine Gallagher
Scoil Acla Writer’s Workshop



  1. You are a powerful writer, and from the sound of it a very strong and determind person.
    I'm glad this is the first post I'm to read on your blog as it gives a fantastic impression, alongside your blog name, of you.

    Best wishes, Danielle x

    1. Thank you so much Danielle, glad you enjoyed reading it. It means a lot. Thanks so much for stopping by x

  2. Great post, love the way your write

  3. You are a strong person, Catherine!
    Min x