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'It all started with my balls' - Colm Tóibín's moving essay about cancer is a must-read

The piece beautifully details his diagnosis to treatment.

Image: PA Images

IRISH AUTHOR COLM Tóibín written for the first time about being diagnosed and receiving treatment for cancer, prompting widespread praise online. 

In an 8,600-word personal story published in the London Review of Books, Tóibín begins by speaking about realising something was wrong.

It all started with my balls. I was in Southern California and my right ball was slightly sore. At the beginning I thought the pain might be caused by the heavy keys in the right hand pocket of my trousers banging against my testicle as I walked along the street. So I moved the keys into my jacket pocket. The pain stayed for a while and then it went away and then it came back.

Tóibín goes on to describe how, after trips to hospitals in London and Dublin, there was still no answer to the problem until he was told he had testicular cancer which had spread to a lymph node and to one lung.

Tóibín then underwent chemotherapy, and in the article Tóibín describes the mental and physical toll it took on him. 

“One morning, a few days after I had finished the third week of chemo, I knew that I couldn’t go on,” Tóibín writes.

I found it difficult to stand and could no longer leave the house. I hadn’t eaten anything for three days. I was determined, however, to follow the agreed schedule, which included a blood test the following day. If there were any real problem the blood test would show what it was. But I found myself sitting in the middle of a room in real distress. It wasn’t just the lack of energy, or the inability to think, or the sense of some vast shadow wandering in my head: it was much more active and present than that. 

Tóibín’s honesty about the difficulties of treatment has prompted a huge reaction online, with many thanking him for the article and wishing him well into the future.

You can read the essay in full here

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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