Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fleeing the killer in the sky

Now there comes again the first stirrings of sunnier days ahead. Summer will not leave us waiting much longer, and already, the temperature is up, the wind is taking it a little easier, in truth it is more of a friendly breeze anyway these days.

Sunshine makes me happy. Waking up to it instantly promises something of a better day than might be delivered in cloud or rain. I feel that instant familiar urgency of the eternal child that makes you want to pull your clothes on and race out into anywhere that is outside, terrified you will miss one minute of it.

It seems impossible that I am sick when the sun is shining. That anything could be wrong on a day like this is hard to believe, and I do find it more difficult to take my illness seriously when the weather calls for ice-cream and beer gardens.

The sad truth however is that my relationship with the sun is over. Once transplanted, the rays it emits will be my nemeses, as one of the unfortunate upshots of having a new kidney is that you are left extremely prone to skin cancer when on anti-rejection drugs.

Already, I have been advised to wear sunscreen every day for six months of the year, from March to September, even while on dialysis, and I was told in Beaumont Hospital that there is a “100% chance” I will develop skin cancer if I do not take at least three leaflets' worth of precautions in future.

I did not point out to the highly educated doctor that when the odds reach 100%, you are looking at something of a certainty rather than a chance.

I wonder what it was like to be part of one of those fearless generations who lived at a time when we didn’t know the sun could kill you.

I look at my parents. My mother, blessed with dark skin, has never worn sunscreen in her life, she boasts a tan for months at a time, a shade of healthy bronze which she gets from nothing more than a lick of the sun.

My father was a bit more careful. One favourite image that remains with me is that of him walking through the gates, after a day spent saving hay, a straw hat shielding him from more freckles.

Ah yes, ‘twas not from the wind I took my own fair skin.

They have told me I will never again sunbathe, that even ambling in a hint of a heatwave, weaving my way in and out of shade, will call for long sleeves, a wide-brimmed hat, Factor 50 on any inch of exposed skin.

It’s not that I ever got a tan. The sun largely ignored me, but that pleasure of being blanketed by natural heat is a therapy and a privilege that I will miss.

It’s one of the few glories open to everyone, the poor and the rich alike. It costs nothing to lounge under some splendour and soak up the Vitamin D and the happiness that a cloudless blue sky can invoke.

It costs nothing, but it could cost me my life. In some ways, for all the limitations that are placed on me through this illness, taking away my sunshine is the worst.


  1. Nothing about what's happening to you that doesn't stink, but that's awful...

  2. Radge - It is awful. Whenever I am able to go on holidays again, I'll be bound for the arctic circle. Luckily, I like penguins.

  3. If it's of any help - I testify that you get used to it. The sun screens aren't the sticky mass of cement they once were. I can now spray Boy Wonder at the back door before he gets to the garden and bless him, he waits for his does before he exits. Keeping the hat on can be a challenge - it has to have street cred before it can grace his cool head. It's just another one of those things in the long path of least resistance that is life in the Land of the Unwell. I hope you will find a new way to lap up the rays and if not... you'll always have the penguins.

  4. Hi Limbo your limbo sister here ;0) when I had my transplant and went on my first hols my friends wouldn't even be near me when I was putting on my factor 50 incase as they put it "they got frost bite" There was no more who got the best tan competition for me anymore....... I just tell them now that one day they will look old and wrinkly and I will still look fresh and young not like the woman from something about Mary!!!

  5. AnnB - I am sure I will get used to it, just like I've become used to not sleeping on my tummy, and not eating crisps, and having blood tests and all the rest of the adjustments. It'll be fine, but I will, as I say, just miss the old sunshine on my bones.

    Hope your Boy Wonder is doing well!

    Limbo Sister - We will be fresh-faced in our twilight years alright! I reckon I'll do the whole Michael Jackson on it, and carry an umbrella around for shade all the time. I'm such an attention-seeker! PS Well done for figuring out how to put up a comment ;) xx

  6. Spotted you on the tellybox there, jesus you're well able for the limelight! :-) Fair play to ya, well done.

    PS Shame about the awards, you defo deserved to win.

  7. Anonymous - The telly appearance was a last-minute thing, but I think it went ok.

    The Awards were a bit of fun anyway, and I took the loss far better than would have been expected by my former tennis opponents.

    Perhaps I'm finally growing up!