Irish people who have gone through cancer treatment

According to The Irish Cancer Society’s website ‘Current estimates state that more than 40,000 people in Ireland get cancer each year. This figure comprises both invasive and non-invasive tumours, as well as non-melanoma skin cancers.’ People with cancer can often think the worst when they get the diagnosis. However here are just some of the examples of people leading inspirational lives while having a diagnosis of cancer:

Nikki Bradley – Adventurer and public speaker

As she says on her website “diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer at sixteen and the receiver of a second hip replacement at the age of twenty-six, I have been on a truly unique journey.“ In 2013, after being told she would remain on crutches permanently, Nikki set up a fitness-based awareness campaign called Fighting Fit for Ewing’s, where she regularly partakes in physical challenges to highlight the importance of exercise for rehabilitation. One of these challenges resulted in her becoming the first person to scale all four of Ireland’s highest mountain peaks on crutches, completing the challange in 32 hours. 

Georgie Crawford – Podcaster

At the age of 32 Georgie was diagnosed with breast cancer, months after giving birth to her daughter. Two surgeries, five months of chemotherapy and four weeks of radiotherapy later, went on The Late Late Show, sharing her story and her message of endurance. She went on to run a 12km mountain run through the Swiss Alps as part of the Swiss Snow Walk & Run in Arosa.  She described how her mantra of “Dig Deep” got her through her cancer battle and her endurance runs saying “When you are in the depths of chemotherapy digging deep is sometimes your only option. I didn’t imagine it would get such a reaction but I heard from so many people that week who were suffering who told me that’s it, that’s exactly it, thank you for saying that because it describes it perfectly” Georgie now presents The Good Glow Podcast where she interviews people going through health issues and The Good Glow Health Podcast a podcast that will help us understand our health better

Peter Foley – CEO of Lets Get Checked 

Peter was inspired to open his company because of his own history with cancer. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was 16 after getting a knock in a rugby game and being rushed to the emergency room. He went through several expensive tests and months of hospital appointments, Peter was eventually diagnosed several months later and went through chemotherapy, then completed his Leaving Cert, and went to college. He started Lets Get Checked in 2015 in an effort to democratise the health care system and allow the general public to order certain medical tests at an affordable price. Lets Get Checked is now valued at €100m they have more than 200 staff and is one of the most impressive Irish startups in recent years..

Noel McGrath – Hurler

The three time All Ireland hurling winner with Tipperary felt a lump on his testicle in 2014 and consulted his doctor. After tests it was confirmed as Testicular Cancer. According to the Irish Independent “From not being able to move for 10 days after a very difficult bout of chemotherapy and losing all his fitness to returning to senior training just 10 weeks ago, campaigners say Noel is an extraordinary role model for men’s health.” In August 2015 Noel came back to the Tipperary team, when they played Galway in the Semi Final of the All Ireland Championship receiving a standing ovation from both sets of fans.

Louise McSharry – Radio and TV Presenter

Having symptoms of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Louise went to her doctor in 2014. After scans and tests it was confirmed as Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Speaking on her RTE Documentary called ‘F**K Cancer’ she said “Initially, my period stopped. I had really bad, intense, sweats at night time which is quite common with Lymphoma. Eventually, I lost my appetite completely, I lost a lot of weight, I was really tired, extremely fatigued. I had major issues with constipation and it’s something nobody talks about. And when you’re experiencing it you have nobody to talk to about it. On the fertility scale I should be between 30 and 40 and I’m 2”. Now one of the stars of RTE Radio, Louise has since got married and is now a mum of two.

Michael Mullan – Activist and Lawyer

At 18 months old Michael’s parents were told he had neuroblastoma and had a 1 in 4 chance of surviving, but he did. Then as a second year law student in Trinity College Dublin he was diagnosed with Kidney Cancer, and had to take two months off college. He beat the cancer again, got a first class honours in law and set up the Race For Life event in his native Kildare. Having moved to Boston to take up a scholarship in Harvard Law, Michael felt a pain in his stomach and went for a scan. The results confirmed that the cancer had spread to his lungs, abdomen, and lymph nodes and he was given six months to live. Michael still continued his scholarship and proposed to his girlfriend. Having graduated from Harvard, Michael is now completing a PHD in law, married his fiance in 2019, but he says it’s difficult at times as he’s on 40 tablets a day. 

Majella O’Donnell – Musician

Majella was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. After this she went through the first of six sessions of chemotherapy, Majella went on the Late Late Show in 2014 to shave her head in order to “take control” of her hair loss and raise awareness of breast cancer. The campaign raised €700,000 for The Irish Cancer Society. Majella is now fully recovered and patron of many cancer research charities.

Tony O’ Donoghue – Broadcaster

While preparing for a game RTE make-up artist Siobhan Power noticed a lump on Tony’s neck. In Tony’s words “she kept nagging me to have it checked!” After his initial tests, Tony underwent surgery and later received radiotherapy and chemotherapy. It was also a stressful time as Tony’s wife was pregnant and had their first child Tim during the chemotherapy. Tony also had to tell his older daughter Aoife. Now an advocate for several cancer charities such as Marie Keating Foundation and The Irish Cancer Society, he told their website “We need to start looking out for the warning signs and not be embarrassed about getting tested, and talking about getting tested.”

Vicky Phelan and the other survivors of the Cervical Check Scandal – Activists

Just one of the many women affected by the National Cervical Check Scandal, Vicky Phelan was diagnosed with cancer three years after her smear test results of 2011 were incorrectly reported as clear of abnormalities. By the time she had another smear test in 2014 she had cervical cancer. In January of 2018, she was given six to twelve months to live and she wrote the book ‘Overcoming’ which won several awards. Having undergone procedures in Ireland and being put on a new drug Pembrolizumab in 2018 she said that her cancer was “kept at bay for 2 years”. In November 2020 she Tweeted that the cancer was back but thanked the drug for giving her a good quality of life for almost 3 years. In January 2021 she travelled to America to take part in a clinical trial, but the prognosis for the condition was bleak.

Following Vicky’s revelations in 2014, then Minister for Health Simon Harris sent in a senior team at the HSE to carry out an audit at CervicalCheck over the weekend that found, in the cases of 208 women diagnosed with cervical cancer, an original smear test had falsely given them the all-clear. In total, 162 of these women were not told about the revised results and of these women, 17 are now dead. If signs of the cancer had been detected in the original tests, women may have received treatment earlier. This has resulted in people such as Lyndsey Bennett and Joan Lucy cases coming to light, Joan passed away while her court case was ongoing.

Síle Seoige – TV Presenter and Podcaster

Former, TG4, Newstalk, and RTE presenter, and current Podcaster, Síle was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 32 and had to undergo surgery to remove her thyroid followed by radioactive iodine treatment. Sile said “Cancer doesn’t care who you are or what you do. Yet we keep hearing about eating well and not doing this and that and the other. But we also know about a huge volume of people who live extremely healthy lives but still get cancer. So that’s always something I’m quite sensitive about because cancer doesn’t care if you’re on the greatest green juice diet or eating chips every day. Some people get it, some people don’t.”

Saoirse Ruane – The Late Late Toy Show Star

In 2019, then seven year old Saoirse was diagnosed with a Osteosarcoma tumour, a rare form of cancer, in her tibia which resulted in her doing chemotherapy and her leg being amputated. With the help of her parents Saoirse set up a gofundme page to cover the cost of her first and all future prostheics she needs, until she reaches the age of 18. The fundraising including a virtual summerfest which was called ‘Saoirse’s Summerfect’ raised more than enough to cover the prostheics, recovery and any modifications that would be need to be made to the family home. Saoirse and her parents had to decide what charities to send the excess money to. Saoirse appeared on the Late Late Toy Show and took her first steps using her new prosthetic on the Toy Show. and was given the prize of a trip to DisneyLand. Saorise was the perfect person to launch The Toy Show Appeal,which along with other Toy Show stars like Adam King raised over €6.6 million for a number of charities in Ireland.

John Wall – Activist

Having been relatively fit for the majority of his life John never really thought that he would be living with cancer. When he was 46 he found himself urinating a lot particularly at night. His GP passed it off and gave him antibiotics. He was told he was “too young” to have prostate cancer. With his blood work being “off the charts” he then started feeling pain in his right leg. John finally was sent for a scan and it was confirmed that he had stage four prostate cancer. John started chemotherapy almost immediately, before travelling to University Hospital Leuven, Belgium for surgery. John was then told he fell outside the remit of being given a medical card due to his diagnosis. This is when John started campaigning for terminally Ill patients in Ireland to receive medical cards. John has met with several Ministers for Health and been a vocal critic of the government’s position. He also advocates for clinical health trials to be allowed to continue during lockdown. In 2020 it was revealed that his critical Tweets have been put on a government watchlist long with the likes of Vicky Phelan and anti-Direction Provision campaigners such as Blindboy Boatclub.

Those who have gone through a cancer battle and sadly passed away

Emma Hannigan  – Author

Emma’s website states She once described herself “as a cancer vixen, having beaten cancer a grand total of ten times before it finally took her from us in March 2018. True to form, Emma turned the worst part of her life into undoubtedly one of her best.” She began to write. Her first novel ‘Designer Genes’ came out in 2009. She has since written more than five bestsellers and was on the  Irish Times Number One bestseller list. It was announced in April 2018 that a cancer research fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeons would be named in her honour.

Pat Smullen – Horse Racing Jockey

The winner of nine Jockeys’ Championships, twelve European Classics, eight Royal Ascot winners and more than 1,900 winners worldwide, Pat will go down as one of Ireland’s greatest jockeys of all time. Pat was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer in 2018. He decided to create a charity race day. In one of the greatest days in the history of the sport, the initiative raised in excess of €2.5m for Pancreatic Cancer Trials. Having initially responded well to the chemotherapy, in 2020 he declined and sadly passed away on September 15th 2020. He is survived by his wife Frances, his children Hannah, Paddy and Sarah.

Jim Stynes – Gealic Football and Australian Rules

An All Ireland winning Gealic Footballer, the Dubliner switched to Australian Rules in 1984. He’s now known as the greatest foreign import  ever. He played 264 for Melbourne Football Club and is the first and only non-Australian-born VFL/AFL player to win the Brownlow Medal (best player), which he achieved in 1991. He was also inducted into their Hall of Fame. He co-founded The Reach Foundation and became a prominent youth worker in Melbourne upon retiring. In 2009 Jim confirmed that he had cancer. In 2010 it was confirmed that the cancer had spread to his brain. Jim sadly passed away on the 27th of March 2012. As an indication of his influence in Melbourne, up to 5,000 people attended his funeral. The Jim Stynes Achievement Scholarship was set up for helping underprivileged children in Melbourne. He is survived by his wife Samantha had children Matisse, and Tierna

Donal Walsh – Fundraiser and Activist 

Donal was diagnosed with OsteoSarcoma (Bone Cancer) in his tibia. At 12 years of age.  He underwent an operation to give him a prosthetic knee and had nine months of chemotherapy. In February 2012 the Cancer returned, this time to his lung and Donal had to have half of his lung removed and endured another round of chemotherapy treatment. In order to increase his lung capacity, for rehabilitation he took up cycling and achieved a distance of up to 60k. In October 2012 Donal was diagnosed for the third, and ultimately final  time. At that point Donal had raised funds totaling €65,000 for the hospitals he attended. Donal appeared on the Brendan O’Connor Show and spoke about his battle with cancer and became an advocate for sucide awareness campaigns. Donal sadly passed away in 2013.  Members of the Munster Rugby team acted as Pallbearers at his funeral, as well as a Maori Haka from his Maori friends from school. His legacy can be seen in the number of suicides in Kerry reducing after Donal spoke out. Donal was posthumously awarded The Person of The Year Award in 2013.

Marie Keating – Campaigner

According to the Maire Keating Foundation’s website “Marie, was diagnosed with breast cancer on Wednesday, 25th September 1996…on October 1st 1996, (she) underwent a full mastectomy then started chemotherapy a few weeks later. After being given the “all clear” in September 1997, by October of that same year, Marie’s doctor’s had discovered three spots of cancer on her spine. However, this time the treatment was not successful and Marie passed away on the 2nd February 1998, aged just 51.”

After losing their mother to a treatable form of breast cancer, her children, including Boyzone star Ronan Keating, founded a charity in her name, The Marie Keating Foundation, to ensure that no other family in Ireland had to go through the trauma of losing a loved one due to lack of information.The Foundation has cultivated a core team of specialised nurses that travel the country sharing lifesaving information about cancer prevention and how to spot the early warning signs. Their support services for people living with or after cancer is an invaluable resource for the +200,000 cancer survivors across Ireland and their Comfort Fund Grant helps to provide relief to those currently receiving treatment that find themselves in financial difficulty. For more information about the Marie Keating Foundation and the services they provide, visit www.mariekeating.ie.”

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