Tuesday 20 August 2019

'I’m finding it hard… I shouldn’t be crying' - Ray D'Arcy breaks down in interview with inspirational man who has months to live

Joe Flynn , Ray D'Arcy, and Joe's two daughters Joanne and Bernie.
Joe Flynn , Ray D'Arcy, and Joe's two daughters Joanne and Bernie.
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Radio host Ray D’Arcy was overcome with emotion today when he interviewed a grandfather who has been given a few months to live.

Joe Flynn (58) from Tralee, Co Kerry, was diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer and next week he will celebrate his daughter Joanne’s wedding to her partner of five years.

Joe bravely outlined how he often wonders if each day will be his last, but he's making every effort to make each day count. He has planned his funeral in full, and he also has a bucket list to complete before he dies, he told Ray.

“The dying aspect, I’m not scared of death... [I’m scared] just in case I’d be suffering too much before it, I’d like to go quickly, that I wouldn’t be suffering too much before it,” he bravely told Ray.

“I’ve everything arranged – the funeral and the whole lot. Everything is done. Even the coffin lifting, and what I’m wearing in the coffin – no suit. I have a t-shirt at home of Only Fools and Horses with ‘what a plonker’ on the front of it’ and I’m wearing that, no shoes either, I've those given away,” he said.

“Caledonia is one of my favourite songs, and Bright Blue Rose, and there’s a few pieces of classical music that I like as well [for the funeral],” he said.

Joe travelled to RTE studios today with his daughters Joanne and Bernie to advise men to get their health checked regularly.

Saying goodbye, Ray started to break down.

“I’m finding it hard… I shouldn’t be crying,” he said.

Listening to Joe talk about how he's lucky to walk his daughter Joanne down the aisle next week, Ray's voice trembled while he read out some of the messages of support from listeners. "What a brave man," one listener wrote.

"Joe I'm in awe of you," he said. "Your attitude to the whole thing, I'm sure people want to know advice."

Joe replied: "Anybody that's positive and bubby, stay in their company. And get yourself checked out. I had a little cough a couple of years ago, and probably that little cough mightn't have transpired into this."

Joe, a sign writer by trade, said he will leave traces of himself all across Tralee when he's gone because his signs adorn the fronts of many of Tralee town's businesses. His bucket list includes the task of making signs for his granddaughter Caitlin's bedroom, and for his son-in-law.

Bernie, who is six-months pregnant, bravely told how she was delighted that doctors recently allowed her dad to be present at her last scan, because he may not live until the day that his new granddaughter is born.

“I got a 50/50 chance and I thought it was beaten, but unfortunately it came back again, it came back in a different place, and it was more serious this time,” Joe said.

“It came back in the abdominal wall, and it’s after affecting the bowel, liver, spleen, and all the organs.”

“Myself and my wife sat up crying about it several nights, and laughing and reminiscing about old times.”

Joe told how returning to his faith has provided him with solace.

“When I went back to religion I felt like a hypocrite…  it’s like you’re sick now and you’re saying by the way God, can you come back and help me now, I need you now… [but the priest said] it’s never too late to go back.”

“It gives me a lot of peace of mind.”

“I do thank God and Padre Pio for waking up in the morning. Then I plan my day… it’s all going around Joanne and my granddaughter at the moment, we’re getting ready now for Joanne’s speech for [her wedding] next Thursday,” he said.

Joe is now preparing his speech for Joanne's big day.

“Hopefully now the pain barrier won’t be too bad to sustain during the day. It’s bad enough alright, but they’re very good in Tralee General Hospital.”

“Joanne’s day will be extra special because Bernie’s day was very special. I’m trying to give Joanne as much as I gave Bernie. I want people to be there and going ‘[not] poor Joe is sick, but oh today is Joanne’s day, let’s enjoy Joanne’s day’.”

Joe paid tribute to his wife of 36 years, Breda, who keeps their house as lively and normal as possible.

"She only got her glasses four years ago, so it's four years ago really," he joked.

Choking back the tears, Ray said: "[This interview] is all my pleasure, it's all my pleasure."

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