Northside People Article on After the Rain

Monday, October 1, 2012 12:00
Life imitates art for terminally ill author
By Aoibhinn Twomey

IT’S the cruelest case of life imitating art for a Northside author who, like the character she wrote about eight years ago, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The tragic irony isn’t lost on author Mary McCarthy, from Glasnevin, who jokes that she should have written about winning the lotto in her book ‘After the Rain’, which has just been published.

In the book, which was penned in 2004, the main character, Emer Dorgan, is a librarian in her fifties who has been looking forward to the freedom of early retirement until she is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

In parallel, Mary, who was a teacher for 34 years, and took early retirement five years ago, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in March. Heartbreakingly, she has been given 18 to 24 months to live.

“You’re always told to write about what you know which is why I wrote about terminal cancer because my two brothers died of cancer,” Mary tells Northside People.

“I went through that journey with my character Emer Dorgan who went through all the feelings of anger, sadness, regret, fear and I think that’s why I’m coping so well with my diagnosis.

“When the doctors gave me the diagnosis my first reaction was: thank God it’s not Alzheimer’s because my mother, whom I looked after for years, had that awful illness.

“I wasn’t devastated. Of course I’m upset for my son and my dog, who’s like my shadow but I haven’t cried and I’m not feeling sorry for myself.

“I guess you could say that I went through all the emotions you’d expect with my character eight years ago.

“Although I’m not as brave as I sound because I hate needles and I don’t like getting the chemo because of how sick it makes me.”

Mary is at peace with her prognosis, which she insists, strange as it sounds, has its benefits.

“I used to think that I’d like to go with a sudden heart attack but now I’ve been given the chance to have open conversations with loved ones that I wouldn’t have had,” she explains.

“I haven’t had an easy life but I think it’s been a worthwhile life as regards to the people that I’ve met through teaching. I don’t have any regrets.

“I don’t get angry about the cancer. I get angry about other things like the Government trying to cut my pension but not this and I think it’s far more tragic for younger people to get cancer.”

Mary worked as a French and English teacher at Holy Faith Secondary School, Glasnevin, for 34 years and counts her blessings that she took early retirement five years ago.

Since retiring, Mary has enjoyed spending time with friends and walking her beloved dog Benny in the local park.

She mischievously laughs off the idea of a bucket list but says she “wouldn’t rule out anything” except for traveling as she’s visited all the places she’s ever wanted to go to.

Chemotherapy is currently keeping Mary’s cancer at bay but she’s acutely aware that it isn’t a cure.

“I’m not afraid of death because I don’t believe in an afterlife,” she adds.

“As an English teacher for 34 years I spent day after day discussing the depressing poems in ‘Soundings’ which all seemed to be about death and I can see Glasnevin Cemetery from my window.

“I guess you could say that death has always been a part of my life.”

‘After the Rain’, which is Mary McCarthy’s fifth novel, is available in bookstores and on Amazon.