I better start off by introducing myself and explaining how I even ended up with the cork cancer care centre.
It started in 2016, I was your average 23-year-old, in my final year of college in Carlow, who loved going out going with my friends, going to festivals, had a part time job, the usual. On our exam results night in September, I celebrated a little too hard and ended up falling down a hole in my friends back garden. I cut open my hand and my head. The next day my parents had to come up to collect me and they then made me go to hospital in case I needed stitches! While I was in hospital, they did a routine chest X-ray as the radiologist was a student too and wanted to practice. 3 weeks later I found out I had a tumour in between my heart and my lungs. It was stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I had no symptoms.
For the next 6 months I had chemotherapy while continuing in Carlow doing my final year. I then moved to Dublin to get radiotherapy as the tumour was too close to my heart. A week later when I thought I was finished everything, I started getting night sweats and pains in my side and couldn’t really breathe properly. When I went back into hospital, they found out that the cancer had spread to multiple places and that I was now stage 4 and would need a bone marrow transplant. So, I went back on a more intense chemo while they tested my siblings for bone marrow. As none of them were a match they went to the world-wide bank where there is 25million donors. None of them were a match either so they decided I would have an autograph stem cell transplant which is when they use your own bone marrow. So, I went up to St James hospital in Dublin I was put in isolation for a few weeks and had my transplant the day I was meant to graduate.
3 months later and I got the all clear on Valentine’s Day. Now it’s just check-ups every 3months for the next 5 years. I’m still recovering as my immune system is useless now but I’m getting there.
And all that brings me to now, while going through all that The Cork Cancer Care Centre supported me and my family. Genuinely don’t know what we would have done without them.
The team in there are a real-life Heroes. My mam went too the centre before I did because of so many people recommending it to her. When I got sick my mam became my full-time career and gave up work to look after. I really believe that your family are your rock when you are sick, and they need to be strong to be there for you. I had a rule that no one was allowed cry around me. The centre made my mam strong by giving her counselling, treatments such as reflexology, reiki, energy healing, angel cards and massage. By supporting my mam, they were actually supporting my whole family.
I then went to the centre and I can’t even describe what they did for me. It was so good to go somewhere, where people didn’t look at me and feel sorry for me or whispers about me or just act sad around me. In the centre I was treated normal which is all I wanted. I was supported by people who actually understood what I was going through. While going through treatment you aren’t allowed do so many things but, in the centre, because the volunteers and staff were trained in oncology, I knew I could do things like certain massages and it would be safe. I got reiki, reflexology, shamanic healing and so much more. It was the one appointment I would look forward to going to instead of always having just hospital appointments. I also met such amazing, friendly, inspirational people through the centre. Many of these people I now call my friends. They are always there for me whenever I need them. What I love about the centre is how personal it is. It’s like going into someone’s sitting room. The people in there don’t treat you like some number, they know you and your story. The centre isn’t just there for you during its opening hours, you can contact them at any time and they always will listen. My family and I are genuinely so lucky that we had the centre to help us through the hardest time of our lives. And even now that I am clear since February, they still help us, but now my whole family go including my dad. I’ve had treatments done since, I’ve done a mindfulness course in there and I get lymphatic drainage done each week in there too and all of this is for free. So, I was delighted when Linda asked would I be the ambassador for 18 to 30-year olds. It really is a privilege and I am so lucky that I am now able to help them and say thank you for everything they have done for me. The doors of the centre only stay open by the fundraising and gifts of the public. We are very lucky to have so many people help us, help the people of Cork who really need it