The 2016 Solas Cancer Support Centre “Run and Walk for Life” may have taken place n Sunday 9th October but the fundraising, for this year, has tak...
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When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, a friend told me about the Solas Centre. She was in similar circumstances the previous year. She had availed of the services and highly recommended the centre. As a result I wasn’t very nervous going to Solas for the first time. My only concern was what I would talk about! I needn’t have worried. At my first meeting I was still there three hours later and this time just flew by.
At that time the present Solas hadn’t been built. Even though the building was much, much smaller the welcome at Solas was always wonderful. The team put you at ease straight away and the atmosphere is always warm and friendly. I went to counselling, reflexology and I joined the art and craft group. All three were brilliant.
The counselling helped me to get things straight in my head and allowed me to voice my worries without burdening family or friends. The reflexology was so soothing and relaxing. The art and craft group gave me a whole new set of friends and support system. We host an Annual Art and Craft Fair every December and sell the beautiful paintings and craft items we have made throughout the year. This year our Art and Craft Fair is taking place on Saturday 5th December. The funds raised from our fair go to support the ongoing provision of services in the Solas Centre which gives the group a great sense of pride and achievement.
I would strongly encourage anyone suffering from cancer, and their families, to contact the Solas Centre. You will never look back! I took part in the “South East Run for Life” in 2013 and again in 2014. I didn’t do any training the first year and was crippled by the end of the 10 miles! I learnt my lesson for the next year. The sense of camaraderie and support on the walk is hard to explain. This year I plan to take it easy and take part in the 5 mile family walk! – Maria Waldron
In January 2011, I noticed a change in my voice. I started to get slightly hoarse and at times had difficulty actually speaking. There was no pain, no sore throat, and no indication that there was anything to unduly worry about.
At first I put it down to my work environment, which at times was extremely dusty. I’d given up smoking 2 years earlier so I was convinced it had nothing to do with the cigarettes. Over the next 6 months my voice got progressively worse until it got to a stage where it was difficult to speak without forcing my voice.
After some persuasion from family and friends I paid a visit to my GP who decided the problem needed further investigation and sent me to E.N.T at University Hospital Waterford. After my visit to E.N.T, I was sent for a biopsy which confirmed I had cancer of the larynx.
Two decisions saved my life, one was giving up smoking and the second was visiting my G.P as the early intervention and diagnosis meant the cancer was detected at an early stage. After the initial shock of being diagnosed my thoughts turned to how best to deal with the situation.
After a lifetime of playing GAA including coaching and training teams and being fully aware of the physical and mental strength needed to overcome adversity, I now realised I was faced with the biggest battle of all, except this time my opponent was the dreaded Big C, namely cancer.
From feeling fit and healthy to suddenly being confronted with this obstacle was a mind numbing experience and one which I decided to meet head on. Not for me all the hype the specialists were trying to encourage me to avail of e.g. counselling, listening, support groups etc. No! I was going to deal with this the same way as I dealt with everyday problems, totally focusing on the positives with no negative thoughts; however this attitude only gets you so far. I was now a part of the cancer family whether I liked it or not, and had to adjust my way of thinking accordingly, as cancer has no respect for thoughts, feelings, gender or age.
After spending 6 weeks in St. Luke’s Hospital, Dublin, receiving radiotherapy and round the clock care, my thoughts were that I was in the process of getting rid of the cancer and when I left the hospital I would be cancer free, not realising I was only starting on the long road to recovery which would involve many different methods and procedures.
On completion of my treatment I was suddenly without the support structures that I had come to depend on. Well meaning family and friends were there for me however it is hard to understand what a cancer patient is going through unless you have been in their situation. It’s a life sentence with every day bringing its own set of fears and worries.
It was at this stage I began to think of the Solas Cancer Support Centre as an aid in my recovery. I had heard so many positive things about the services they provided, I felt it was a step in the right direction for me at that stage. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I made during this difficult time.
On entering the Solas Cancer Support Centre the thing that struck me most was that it is an oasis of calm and comfort, that made me feel at ease straight away such was the caring and helpful attitude of everyone there. I availed of the services on several occasions and I firmly believe it helped through the worst days of my recovery.
I have since taken part in the South East Run for Life and intend to do so for as long as possible. The feeling of camaraderie with everyone joining in a common cause is amazing. It really is an unbelievable experience. The South East Run for Life and the 5 Mile Walk for Life deserves the full support of the wider community. Nearly every family will be touched by cancer in some way at some stage of their lives, so it’s vital that the Solas Cancer Support Centre services are maintained.
Encounters with cancer vary. It’s not easy to cope, irrespective of one’s strength, medical help or support of family and friends. The range of services offered, free of charge, by the South Eastern Cancer Foundation can and does provide light. Appropriately, their friendship is termed “Solas” – the Irish for light.
In 2010, Siobhán was diagnosed with melanoma. We had two young children and, whilst initiating treatment, discovered Siobhán was expecting our third. Despite intensive surgery, the pregnancy survived. Months later, however, the cancer returned. Our daughter had to come out six weeks early, amidst more surgery. Later, Siobhán required oncology and was prescribed the newly approved ipilimubab. Complications arose in 2012 and chemotherapy, radiosurgery and radiotherapy followed. In February 2013, Siobhán’s prognosis was months rather than years and by June, it was weeks.
On Saturday 27th July, Siobhán texted invites for our eldest son’s eighth birthday set for the following Saturday. In the meantime, cancer eventually took her. Ruán’s party went ahead, as his Mom wished, and Siobhán’s funeral was two days later. Since then, there’s a tree and plaque in Siobhán’s memory at the park in Dunmore East – looking out to the sea where her ashes were scattered.
I wouldn’t wish our journey on anyone. From the first steps, up to today in the case of mine and the children’s, the Solas Centre has been there for us. Initially, it was an independent source for Siobhán to talk to. In turn, she attended for reflexology. Solas was a kind of oasis and the counselling there was invaluable. I’ve availed of it myself. Conscious of possible effects on our children, all five of us participated in art therapy sessions. After Siobhán’s passing, I’ve turned to Solas to underpin comprehension of and reaction to all that has happened. Being a friend of the Solas Centre helped Ruán, Sadhbh, Gráinne and I to be as resilient as we could and can be.
Ebullient and interested in others, Siobhán in 2009 prior to cancer being currency in our own lives, ran in the Solas “South East Run for Life”. Subsequently, I’ve walked it. I’ll be very proud when our three children will have the opportunity to join me in doing so in 2015.
We’ll never forget the extraordinary person that Siobhán was. In our lives, she is a light that will never go out. The Solas Centre is also a resource beyond the ordinary, a light that should be there for others to see and benefit from. Please join us in supporting the “South East Run for Life 2015” -Fiachra O’Ceilleachair
2009 was my first engagement with the Solas Centre, when I took part in the South East Run for Life. Little did I know that the following year I and my Mam Kathleen would be availing of the services. In May 2010, Mam’s breast cancer returned after 12 years of being in remission. From that moment on our lives changed forever. The oncologist in University Hospital Waterford suggested we contact the Solas Centre for support.
Once Mam was strong enough, mobile to go out, we visited the Solas Centre. Straight away Mam felt at ease and was so happy that there was outreach support. She availed of the reflexology, which she loved, found very relaxing, helpful, especially if the pain was bad. As a career, this same opportunity was opened to me, which was fabulous, because as a daughter and career seeing your Mam going through the challenges of cancer was very upsetting and scary. During this time we both felt that going to the Solas Centre was an escape. Mam loved chatting with the Solas Team, she loved the laughing and the chitchat. She always came out good humoured, feeling, as she used to say “Like I’m walking on a cloud”, “I feel like a million dollars”, “Right where to now!” The Solas Team gave her so such much confidence and support. Mam had such inner strength she was ready to face the world and live.
August 13th 2014 Mam passed away after four and half years with cancer. For the first year, the Solas Team, were absolutely amazing to me. They helped me so much, through my grief, because it is only when everything is over, you begin to realise the effects it has on you as a carer and a close family member. I was offered a range of support options; from counselling, reflexology, yoga, meditation, art therapy, anything from one on one to group classes. There is a range of support services offered so you can avail of what suits you as an individual. Solas helped me and supported me move on and gave me the courage to take each step at a time through this first difficult year.
Counselling, helped me to speak openly in a safe environment. Talk about my worries, troubles, fear of loss and my own sadness. I needed to share, but something’s I felt I couldn’t share with close family and friends as I felt I didn’t want to burden them either. They had their own things problems. It was great to have the Solas Centre and their Team, who were neutral, and you can share your inner most thoughts in a confidential environment. You feel you are in safe hands with this professional Team.
This year, I and some of my friends are hoping to do the South East Run for Life once again. To say thank you and to raise money to help Solas continue the work they are doing. I am in the process of organising a concert to raise awareness and money for the Solas Centre, because the support they give to clients, their families and friends is amazing. They give much needed to help everyone during the whole process.
Mam and I would have been lost without them.