A LATE night visit to Midoc last November was one of the luckiest moves that Mountmellick man Paul Conroy has ever made.
A chef at O’Loughlin’s Hotel in Portlaoise, he finished his shift and made a quick decision to call to the outside hours doctor service, after noticing that he had passed blood.
“I thought I had a kidney infection. We were getting ready for the busy Christmas period and I thought I would get an antibiotic and sort it out quickly,” he said.
Things didn’t turn out to be that simple.
“The doctor must have noticed something, because he was adamant that I go to the hospital there and then. It was midnight at that stage,” said Paul.
He went straight next door to Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise, where they took blood samples and booked him in for a CT scan for the next morning.
“They were very on the ball. I still thought it was just a standard kidney infection,” he said.
The CT scan revealed that Paul actually had a tumour on his left kidney. Further blood tests confirmed that it was cancerous. Just ten days from his visit to Midoc, Paul was told by a surgeon at Tallaght hospital that it was “fairly serious” and his kidney had to come out.
“There was never cancer in our family, but I knew I had to get over it, when I stood looking at my sons in their beds, saying goodnight to them. My own father died when I was 16,” he said.
Paul is one of eight children of Kathleen and the late Tom Conroy, the close knit family are well known and loved in their native town.
Paul asked for the surgery to be delayed until surgeon after Christmas, so it would not be spoiled for his two sons, Thomas aged 16 and Jamie aged 7.
“I knew they would worry,” he said.
The surgeon agreed and by January 11, Paul was up in Tallaght hospital undergoing his surgery.
“They thought they would have to remove half my left lung as well, they weren’t sure until they operated, but they discovered it hadn’t spread,” Paul said.
So successful was the surgery that Paul needs no further treatment, just checkups every six months for the next ten years. Always a non-drinker, he quit smoking the day after the operation, admitting he found it “extremely difficult”.
“They say I will manage fine on one kidney. I feel extremely lucky, it’s hard to explain it, I look at life differently now. When I was out sick I really got to know the kids. I was nine months with them, not just dropping them to school, it was lovely having that extra time,” says Paul.
He returned to work three weeks ago. A chef at O’Loughlin’s Hotel for the past eleven years, he is following in a strong family tradition. Four of his five brothers are also chefs, as were his mother’s brother and uncle. Paul achieved his BA in Culinary Arts from Athlone IT last year.
“We are thrilled to have him back,” said proprietor Ivor O’Loughlin.
Paul says he got great support from his family, from his work colleagues and his manager JJ Eyre, but most of all from his partner Majella.
“She was number one to support me, she got me through it,” he said.
He urges anyone who sees blood in their urine to go to a doctor.
“I had noticed blood two years before, but I ignored it. I had no other symptoms, except I always had bloodshot eyes. They said if I had gone on for another six months, there would have been no coming back, it would have spread,” he said.