Stay Angry and You Will Taste Life

An open letter to children with cancer and their parents

Hello and welcome to a slightly different ‘Hand in Hand’ website and newsletter.

I’m going to talk here not so much to parents (although I do hope that you’ll read it too) but directly to you young people who have been diagnosed with cancer.

I’m new on the block, so let me say right from the beginning that if I make any mistakes, then I want you to tell me about them.  Simple as that. Tell me what annoys you; get it off your chests.  You’ll find my email address at the bottom of this introduction.

Are you cheesed off (I’m trying to be polite here) with the manner in which this organisation is being ignored?  Tell me about that. I want to hear it. Because I’m angry. I’m very angry.

The lady who heads ‘Hand in Hand’…oh, how pleased I am to have met her.  She’s called Jennifer Carpenter and I don’t care how embarrassed she is about reading this.  I want to immediately give credit where it’s due:  this is a lady that I’ve only known for two weeks.  And let me tell you that I am in awe of her.

Some people were made only for desk jobs.  She’s not one of them. Jennifer is straight out frustrated that she can’t do more.  She is like some force of nature that is hands-on and out there doing everything that she can to assist you who are suffering from this appalling disease.

And for your families who are suffering with you.

I’ll leave Jennifer alone for the moment because you can read elsewhere on this site an interview with her.

I’m not going to tell each and every one of you that it will get better. That’s way more than I have any remit to say.  I will tell you this, though:  ‘Hand in Hand’ is here to help out in any way we can.

What do I know?  That’s a good question and I can almost hear you asking it.  Who’s that smug clown behind his keyboard?

I know because, when I was not much older than many of you who are suffering, I lost my large bowel.  I thought that it was the end of the world.  Later I had most of my small bowel removed; and then in an operation that same year I waved fare thee well to six inches of lower intestines.

I was just about at the stage where I was going to tie little yellow ribbons around what was left of my insides and leave post-it notes on them.  Life has a funny sense of humour, though.

I was told that I would possibly be dead before I hit 24.  Yet here I am, thirty years later, more handsome than ever (and heavier than ever!); and more passionate about things than ever.  With my own illness, the strides forward in thirty years have been breathtaking.

Yet since meeting Jennifer I can now add that I’m angrier than ever. (Maybe she has that effect on people!)

Jennifer and the truly extraordinary men and women who put in their time to help the ‘Hand in Hand’ organisation—and without whom it simply could not survive– shouldn’t have to feel that they are putting out their hands with a damned begging bowl in them.  It’s just not good enough to accept, as we have been told to our faces by some individuals, that between 220 to 250 children here who are being diagnosed with cancer every year hardly warrants a mention. 

I don’t accept that.  Neither should you.

It makes me angry; and it should make you angry too.  That doesn’t mean that you channel all your energy into negativity. It’s possible to be a good laugh at parties.  I should know.  Friends are forever trying to stop me from singing Kris Kristofferson songs.

I can promise you this: ‘Hand in Hand’ will never stop asking those with the power to change things to step up and help us.  In a country where a bank bail-out can take place under the cover of darkness, in the most undemocratic way imaginable, we are not willing to take it on the chin and believe that the miserly €7,000 given to us last year is good enough.

You can help us, too:  you can write to your local TD or councillors and ask them just why we are being ignored.

Just on that note it is only fair, given that politicians tend to get blanket abuse these days, to give a mention to Noel Grealish, who has been a good friend to this organisation.  You may remember Noel as the Galway independent who withdrew government support three years ago in protest at their awful health cuts.  That alone is enough to make me like him.

In the film Stay Hungry with Arnold Schwarzenegger, there is a mantra that says that if you stay hungry you will taste life.

I’m asking you who have been dealt a really bad hand of cards to stay angry.  And don’t give in.  Never ever give in.  Life really is beautiful, even at the worst of times.  Taste it.  You’ll find that it is sweeter and more luscious than those Mississippi Mud Pies I like so much.

You can find our contact details on this site. Or if you ever want to drop me a line please feel free to do so.  My name is Charley Brady and my email address is: