Breast Cancer Chapter 4: New Year’s Day 2018: Eleanor Rose Clarke (Comyn) was buried in the Comyn grave in Bishop’s Quarter, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare. Unable to attend (undergoing treatment for breast cancer) I was there in L’Esprit



See the sullen sweeps of Burren
Bend to meet the moody sea
Down below a stud valley
Which is always home to me.

Men of kindness and of courage
Sons of centuries toil
Coaxing out a narrow living
From a sparse reluctant soil

Wives and children of the Burren
Homes that show the light of love
As they grapple there with nature
The sea skies of blue above

When my years have had their living
When at last it is time to die
Bring me back to BALLYVAUGHAN

Our dear James Peter rests in Ballyvaughan and is at peace.

Poem written by: Sir James Comyn, formerly of Belvin Hall, Tara, Co. Meath

and London SW3


Today, Eleanor Rose Clarke nee Comyn  joins her Father Mother Aunts Uncles and of course her dear first cousin JJ in Bishop’s Quarter graveyard.  It is in Bishop’s Quarter that the Comerford Blake-Forster Vault is located; but both Marcella, Eleanor Rose’s mother and Eleanor Rose have decided to be buried in the Comyn grave.  Ironically, both the Comyn’s and the Blake-Forster are related to the Macnamara’s (Caitlin Macnamara married Dylan Thomas) so the storm of New Year’s Eve named Dylan and the storm named ‘Eleanor’ the arrival of Eleanor Rose to the world beyond that described so eloquently described by JJ in the poem above.

Insert:– Co Clare and Galway – how families intertwine through centuries and all meet back where as JJ wrote “See the sullen sweeps of Burren Bend to meet the moody sea”.

Captain Francis O’Donnellan Blake-Forster of Castle Forster, Kinvara, County Galway and Ballykeale House, Co. Clare, who was High Sheriff of Galway in 1878.He married in 1879, Marcella, eldest daughter of Robert Johnston, Esq., J.P., of Arran View, Doolin, Co. Clare, and co-heiress of Sir Burton Macnamara.
i) Francis Blake-Forster, of Corr House, Co. Clare, who married in 1914, Ethel R. Taaffe. He is the present head of the family O’Donnellan Blake-Forster ii) Robert Blake-Forster iii) The O’Donnellan (Donie) Blake-Forster married Julia iv) Catherine Blake-Forster, who married in 1910, John St. George Lucas Esq., J.P., Sandfield, Co. Clare. v) Mary Blake-Forster, who married in 1911, David Crawford Pearson, Esq., M.D., Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare. vii) Frances R. Blake-Forster, who married in 1918, Arthur Matthew Kelly Esq., Porte, Co. Clare. viii) Marcella Blake-Forster, who married Michael Comyn, KC

Written as transcribed from the Genealogical Sketch of the Sept of  Blake-Forster published in the “Galway Vindicator” 1866 dated October 20th.  The present two generations will be detailed as an addition at later stage.


“There is peace even in the storm” Vincent Van Gogh. 1st January 2018 I, eldest and oldest daughter of Eleanor Rose attended my Mum’s funeral and read the 1st reading and last Prayer of the Faithful.

Photos Funeral (to be included)

Woven basket coffin.  There were four outsiders looking in the second last row at the back of Skryne Church, Tara, Co. Meath.

I was informed by email that my niece would be doing the first reading.  I said No that I would be doing so as the eldest and only daughter.  I was excluded from any contribution to the funeral mass on behalf of my Mother’s family, which quite blatant alienated and excluded me.  KT assisted me and having phoned the Bishop for Meath and the Primate, it was agreed I would do the first reading and the last of the Prayers for the Faithful.

Four priests (including my Father’s brother, Paddy Clarke) said the funeral mass.  Fr Thomas O’Mahony gave a very touching sermon making reference to Mum’s involvement over 53 years as a GP in Skryne, Tara, Co. Meath and her continued involvement in the community.  Mum walked daily with her much loved dog Gracie so when people noticed that she had not been out walking on that day they investigated.  Nobody has chosen to share the details with me.   Thanks to someone who recalled the quote my Mum liked and Fr O’Mahony included in the sermon:-

“If you want to be happy for the day, have a good meal. If you want happiness for a week, get married. To be happy for the rest of your life, start a garden.”

It appears the Gardai were not called and Mum was admitted to A&E on December 23rd 2017.

The photos tell the story.  The little Teddy.  Since I was diagnosed with cancer I have been meeting Mum every week and Mum asked me if I had wanted my teddy bear that my Mum’s mother had given me as a baby back in the early 1960’s.  Added to this she had found a rose that was on my blue Sunday dress which I now have on my wall beside my bed; then she gave me a rug; pajamas, beads from Padre Pio,

Thankfully I was permitted to do the First Reading; it was that chosen by Fr O’Mahony:  A reading from the Book of Wisdom (3:1-6.9).  To have wisdom is a gift and Rose as a doctor for 55 years, having worked in Hull, in Yorkshire, Nobber, Co. Meath, Fall’s Road in Belfast (brief period), Stradbally, Co Laois, Loughglynn, Co. Roscommon, arriving in Tara, firstly at Belper Dispensary house and grounds, on road to Tara Hill, and then to Skryne, had acquired much wisdom from her experiences in life.  Michelle read the first reading.

He accepted them as a holocaust

The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God, no torment shall ever touch them.  In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die, their going looked like a disaster, their leaving us, like annihilation; but they are in peace.

If they experienced punishment as men see it, their hope was rich with immortality; slight was their affliction, great will their blessing be.  God has put them to the test and proved them worth to be with him; he has tested like gold in a furnace, and accepted them as a holocaust.

They who trust in him will understand the truth, those who are faithfully will live with him in love; for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.

The Word of the Lord.

Fr Paddy Clarke, Columban Father, brother-in-law of Eleanor Rose, read the Gospel

Prayers of Faithful read by Eleanor Rose’s grandchildren:- Conor, Molly, Gile, Anna and Tom.  Her daughter Michelle read the last Prayer.  They were read from the altar.

Michelle read the last Prayer of the Faithful and included a few words of her own.

” Judge not , that you may not be judged…And why seest thou the mote
that is in the brother’s eye;and seest not the beam that is in thy own
eye?”…Matt 7.1-5…

Lord help us to examine our own lives so that by thy grace we dare NOT
to condemn another, but rather see OURSELVES in most need of thy

LORD hear us….
Lord graciously hear us…

The Bishop of Meath does not permit Eulogies at funerals but I had an opportunity and as opportunities come to pass and not to pause I decided to add my own few words.  I said that at this time last week I was meeting my Mum in the Westin hotel, Dublin 2 and that Rose was advising me on the importance of being positive in my mindset about breast cancer.  I said that over 40 years ago we had arrived in Co Meath as blow-ins and I thanked all on behalf of my Father, my Mother, JJ and me.  I thanked my partner KT also.

Family and lore runs deep in Co. Clare and family connections through generations become rejuvenated at a time of passing.  I was unable to follow the hearse to Clare, in fact I was excluded from all arrangements, relating to my Mum’s funeral.  I will in time return to the graveyard I know so well, in my own time, with KT and my dog Freddie, and be at peace with my Mum, Grandfather, Grandmother, uncles, aunts and many more who are buried there and who are familial.

Days have passed and numb is all I can say I feel. I take  up a book and put it aside for Rose as I did so often when I met each week at the Atrium in the Westin hotel for coffee and scones, one plate shared between the two of us.  If I didn’t have a book, I would have Ireland’s Own (which my partner KT reads, as did JJ) and which Mum loved to read.  Often I would have snippets from the newspapers so that we could chat about the world and what goes on.

It is 14th January 2018 and the abyss is vast, my routine as necessitated by traumatic brain injury is in turmoil.  KT tells me it is Tuesday and it is chemo day again so I must now allow my Mum the freedom of being in a different place but hold dearly all that was so positive about her as a human being.  I have given myself the permission to drift and accept that I am deeply in mourning for my Mum.  I don’t when; I forgot to write in my diary but as ever full of wisdom, when I said to my Mum my hair was completely gone but their were a few long single strands and it looked woeful.  In that wisdom, she said you must have your head shaved – this is what my patients have done.  I did this and yes for anyone else – a clean shaven head, as advised, his better for your diminished sense of self that goes with cancer.

Chemotherapy:  I plucked up the courage to ask the names of the medications injected via my right hand veins into my system.  Aine the nurse wrote out the names for me.  These are for the treatment of breast cancer herceptin 2.

Cyclophosphamide 1,100 g…/cyclophosphamide.aspx



16th January 2018:  Back to St Vincent’s Hospital Private for 4th round of chemotherapy.  Esther kindly advised me to notify my solicitor because as stated before my Mother paid for my VHI cover as part of her package.  It is necessary now for me to pay the annual amount so I await notice from VHI and a bill going forward.  This provided much anxiety for me because my income is modest.  At this point and for this reason especially when people encounter multi-morbidities related to health; the complications involved with invalidity/incapacity/disability payments cause such stress and anxiety that rather than have improved life conditions; your health tends to deteriorate even further.  I believe in both the NHS and Universal Basic Income see pilot presently in Finland.  The film by Ken Loach “I am Daniel Blake” reverberates just how important it is not to treat people because of ill-health as sub-human.…/finland-trials-basic-income-for-unemployed


Aine was in charge of me again today.  KT and Sally left me to the hospital.  KT waited with me for an hour.  My weight this time was 80.8 kilos.  Aine took my bloods and I awaited for about an hour until the results said it was okay to proceed with the treatment.  There was a problem with the first set of bloods so efficiently rather than waiting Aine decided to take a second set of bloods and send them to the laboratory. This time I have gathered a little more information.  You get a wristband which has a bar code on it and each machine checks out the bar code and your date of birth so this is how data is being logged.  When the drip fed medication arrives, two nurses, read out the details and confirm them with your bar code and date of birth.

The woman in the chair next to me was really organised between the smart phone and the tablet; she told me you just connect to their Wifi.  This woman had decided to have the Cold Cap but she admitted that she had still lost half of her hair and that each time you have treatment you have to go through the same timely procedure of having the cold cap administered and that she took pain killers to stop the headache.  This reassured me because cold and depression are very closed linked and I being bipolar did not want to take the risk with extreme cold to my head.  She had lots of information about the radiotherapy which I didn’t know and had a great sense of fun about everything.  I explained about my Mum and I was tearful but she was kind.  Professor Crown did his rounds and I must say is a committed Oncologist, able, capable and resolute.  What is important is that the patient feels they can trust the person who is part of a team who are dedicated to improving the quality of life of a person diagnosed with breast cancer (Herceptin 2).  I sat in the chair from before 9 am until 3 pm.  Aine gave me my next appointment card and told me that I would only be getting Herceptin 2 and that my appointment was for the afternoon at 2 pm.  I left the hospital, it was snowing so I got a taxi home.

The importance of community is essential; it may be a town, or may be a smart urban village like Upper Baggot Street, Dublin 4, but it is essential.  Boots Pharmacy – Seana, Khalida and Carol had all my medication prepared for me both before and after the last treatment.  The Neulasta has to be taken between 24 and 48 hours after the last session of chemotherapy.  KT collected the injection which has to be stored in the fridge and successfully injected it into my tummy.  The woman sitting beside me told me that the Neulasta costs e1,000 just for the prick of a needed but that in the US it costs US$7,000+ so Pharmaceutical companies somewhere are making huge gains.  A community means you get to know people and they know you,  It is in times of sadness you see the goodness in people.  Our friend of many years now met with us and I mentioned to him about Fr John Sullivan SJ.  Only recently I had mentioned him to my Mum and she had said that when she experienced a crisis period in her life she had gone in search of this priest in Gardiner Street.  You may think you know everything about a parent but 5 decades on I had never known about this.  Joe arranged with his sister Pauline to take me to Gardiner Street for the monthly mass,  This man is beatified.  His coffin rests at the Church.  When the mass ended people were invited to kiss the preserved relics.  This man is beatified and it is hoped he will be made a Saint when Pope Francis visits Ireland.

Fr John Sullivan SJ: a loyal servant of God 1861-1933 – Fr. John …

The ravages of cancer seemed to hold no fear for Fr Sullivan. In 1929, John Nevin, who lived at Betaghstown, near Clongowes, was dying of cancer of the face. One side of his face was almost entirely destroyed. The doctor attending him described it as one of the worst cases he had seen and found it difficult himself to …

For people diagnosed with cancer even if you have no Religion, kindness and dedication to the sick is a noble act and this man was one exceptional human being.

30th January 2018:  I received a phone call from Anne Marie to know if I had received a letter regarding the schedule for radiotherapy.  I hadn’t but I attended the appointment at 10.30 am today.  The use the machine and they do a plan, which is reviewed alongside the team and Professor Armnstrong, for the 19 sessions of radiotherapy which is schedule each day Monday to Friday.  I await the start date.  What is interesting about this is that we are moving closer and closer to where technology really disrupts what was a bureaucratic system of medicine.  Your details are assembled by the secretary, a photograph is taken and then you are handed a card.  The card has a bar code which you scan each time you arrive for radiotherapy and then you give same to whoever needs the data.   You have your own specific code.  Artificial Intelligence is here but unless you are confronted we underestimate its power within medicine.   However, the card does not replace all hard copy; you are given details relating to patients receiving radiotherapy to the breast/chestwall.

Brief summary:  You may be able to get the full details on

St. Vincent’s Private Hospital (Part of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group

Radiotherapy to the breast/chestwall.

What is Radiotherapy?

It is a treatment using high energy x-rays that targets the site of the cancer.  “Radiotherapy has clear benefits as it is a localised treatment which destroys any microscopic cells and reduces the risk of recurrence”.  The detailed five sheets outline the first appointment which is to plan the treatment which involves having a computed tomography scan (CT) scan.  This takes images of your body, using X-rays and processes them using a computer.  All angles produce detailed images and this means greater ability to target your treatment more effectively.   Further details concern the Radiotherapy treatment which is done on a machine and is called Linear Accelerator.  Then there is an extensive list of side effects and recommendations to minimalise effects.  Attached is also a General skin care advice for patients receiving Radiotherapy.

Providing written details empowers the patient to become involved in their treatment and that is a positive.  Having read Eric Topol ‘The Patient will see you now’ I wholly endorse the inclusion of the patient in whatever medical treatment they receive.  The written format is the added advantage that you can keep it in your priority box.  The chemo brain syndrome, from my experience as a person with severe memory deficits due to traumatic brain injury, would say it is better to have the hard copy of Radiotherapy and for that matter Chemotherapy/Oncology in the written format.


Overwhelmed and just one month since my Mum passed away; my routine is chaos but I am just taking each day as it comes.  Freddie my beloved dog has decided to come out in sympathy with me and we are back and forward to the vets and the last news we received today is he needs an ultrasound.  It never rains but it pours.  Freddie is young; he came from Dogs in Distress so we know that he had a bad beginning in life but I hope he gets a good prognosis.

To end this chapter I can only take account of the love my Mum had for dogs; which she had all her life and report this piece in the Daily Telegraph 29th January 2018.  Mum had a Shih Tzu called Benji.  The strange part is to some of Mum’s friends from a certain era in her life, they called her Rosie and in this article the name of the owner was Elena and it was Elena, the nurse who phoned me to tell me to come to the Mater at 5.40 am 28th December 2018.  I was 20 minutes late but Elena was with my Mum.

Elena has this brilliant idea:  Leads2Love for single people looking for a mate.  The other link is that Elena’s partner’s name is Russell Canny (an unusual name: and I think my Mum said she was related to Canny’s in Clare).

Meath Chronicle:  Obituary

Next treatment is 2 pm but I am finished with chemotherapy; the treatment will be intravenous drip of Herceptin.









About michelleclarke2015

Life event that changes all: Horse riding accident in Zimbabwe in 1993, a fractured skull et al including bipolar anxiety, chronic fatigue …. co-morbidities (Nietzche 'He who has the reason why can deal with any how' details my health history from 1993 to date). 17th 2017 August operation for breast cancer (no indications just an appointment came from BreastCheck through the Post). Trinity College Dublin Business Economics and Social Studies (but no degree) 1997-2003; UCD 1997/1998 night classes) essays, projects, writings. Trinity Horizon Programme 1997/98 (Centre for Women Studies Trinity College Dublin/St. Patrick's Foundation (Professor McKeon) EU Horizon funded: research study of 15 women (I was one of this group and it became the cornerstone of my journey to now 2017) over 9 mth period diagnosed with depression and their reintegration into society, with special emphasis on work, arts, further education; Notes from time at Trinity Horizon Project 1997/98; Articles written for 2003/2004; St Patricks Foundation monthly lecture notes for a specific period in time; Selection of Poetry including poems written by people I know; Quotations 1998-2017; other writings mainly with theme of social justice under the heading Citizen Journalism Ireland. Letters written to friends about life in Zimbabwe; Family history including Michael Comyn KC, my grandfather, my grandmother's family, the O'Donnellan ffrench Blake-Forsters; Moral wrong: An acrimonious divorce but the real injustice was the Catholic Church granting an annulment – you can read it and make your own judgment, I have mine. Topics I have written about include annual Brain Awareness week, Mashonaland Irish Associataion in Zimbabwe, Suicide (a life sentence to those left behind); Nostalgia: Tara Hill, Co. Meath.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s