You would think spending the last 15 years supporting my daughter Jessie’s passion for Irish dance would seem inspiring enough to write this play. But it wasn’t until I was faced with breast cancer, and all that goes with it, that my passion for this story came to be and my dream would surface.
A year after my surgery, chemo and radiation, my hand/arm started to swell. I had lymphedema. With my surgery leaving me without lymph nodes in my right arm, it wasn’t a big surprise that this happened. But it still shocked and scared me to death. My arm got so big that I could barely lift it. Never mind getting it into the arm of a shirt…
I sat in my first lymphedema treatment for two hours and listened to the therapist tell me about her life as she wrapped each finger and then used eight bandages to tightly bond my hand/arm like a mummy. I felt trapped on so many levels. I thought, “this is it…this is what’s going to get me”. I drove home in a daze. Could it be true what she said…I will have to go through this procedure 32 times to get my arm back? And every day for two hours? Will it work? Why is this happening??!!!
To say the situation was depressing is an understatement. Here I was thinking all the cancer crap was behind me and now, as the summer began, I was dealing with a whole new set of obstacles and losing my mind in the process. I should also mention that I’m a photographer and without my arm, I would have to kiss my career and passion goodbye. But I sucked it up and went the next day and the next. It was horrible. On the third day, I called my dad.
“What’s up?” my dad said. “Well, I survived stage III cancer and now this giant arm is going to do me in, that’s what’s up,” I said. “I can’t take it! I can’t go back and listen to the girl talk about what she had for dinner as she massages my lymph nodes and wraps me like a sausage roll. I don’t have time for this and I WANT MY ARM BACK!” Silence on his end…then he reminded me that when we lived in Rosedale, NY, he went to this guy named Vito to cut his hair. Vito would say, “Tommy you wanna talk or you wanna no talk?” True to my dad’s incomparable wisdom, his words resonated strongly with me. He said, “First off, tell this girl you wanna No Talk.” “Second, give it up. Just give it to God and see what happens.” “WHAT?” I said. “Just lay there?” “Yup,” he said, “just lay there.” So I did.
Four days later this entire play was literally playing out in my head. The O’Reilly family came to me and entertained me that whole summer. Who has two hours a day to devote to character building and plot scheming? I did! It was exciting, exhilarating and just the escape I so desperately needed. I couldn’t stop talking about this family, this adventure. They took over my world.
McGoldrick’s Thread is that play. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the journey of getting it on paper and seeing it come to life. It’s extraordinary when you let things in your life just be…without overthinking or reacting. Just be. Just see what happens.
By the way, the lymphedema treatment didn’t work for me. After 32 times of mind and arm-numbing therapy, not having the use of my right arm/hand, my arm measured to be exactly the same size as it was the first day of treatment. That might have been enough to send me over the edge, but surprisingly, I really didn’t get that upset. I had a new play and I was excited to get out there and share it with the world. Big arm and all!
PS –for some miraculous reason, my arm swelling has since gone down on its own. Not all the way, it is still heavy and hard to get a sleeve over it, but it’s my giant arm and I love it.