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Beating cancer after finding lump during early stages of pregnancy

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Sarah McGinley was just five weeks pregnant when she discovered a lump on her neck.

Doctors reassured the young teacher that it was pregnancy related, and it wasn’t until after her son Rua Patrick was born and the lump persisted, that she was referred to the endocrine clinic.

After a long wait, an ultrasound, a biopsy and some honest warnings from her the doctor at the clinic, Sarah was diagnosed with Stage 2 thyroid cancer.

“Nothing really was made about it and they weren’t too worried about it at all, and every time I went for an appointment I would tell them my symptoms like they asked,” she said.

Sarah would tell her doctors of her symptoms, most of which were normal, except for the lump on her neck which was thought to have been pregnancy related goitre.

Her bloods were always fine and never gave away any warning signs or showed up any malfunctions of the thyroid.

“When I was lying down I couldn’t swallow properly and it was quite restrictive on my neck and I could see it.

“Not that I was paranoid or anything, but I knew there was something wrong.”

At the clinic, Sarah remembers her doctor’s honesty and efficiency with being able to spot the abnormalities almost immediately.

Soon after, Sarah had her thyroid removed along with some surrounding lymph nodes.

The 32-year-old from Wellpark received radioactive iodine treatment in St Luke’s Hospital in Dublin, where she was in isolation for almost a week.

“It was very difficult at the time. I think the hardest part was when I got home and I couldn’t actually go back to my own house because you can’t be near children or pregnant people for a different amount of time for each person.

“So for me, I wasn’t able to share a bed with my partner or the baby or be near him.

“I was able to be in the same room as him so long as he didn’t come near me which is impossible with a baby, so I kind of had to keep my distance for another week then, so that was hardest on me but he didn’t even notice!”

Despite these difficulties, Sarah was able to have some well-needed rest while on the radioactive treatment, completing schoolwork and watching television.

Adamant she was going to breastfeed her son until he was one, Sarah recalls the disappointment of being told she couldn’t continue to do so.

It was her surgeon’s kindness and empathy with handling her situation that largely got her through her diagnosis and ultimately arriving at acceptance of her illness.

“She was so empathetic; she just very kindly talked me through how the surgery would affect me and how I wouldn’t be able to continue breastfeeding and that really broke my heart.”

Acceptance of her illness came after Christmas when Sarah believed she was fit to return to work, but didn’t realise the toll which the surgery would take on her, as well as everything else that would be coming.

Her surgeon, Orla Young at UHG, and nurse sat her down to kindly explain to her that it was okay not to go back to work just yet.

“I was feeling really exhausted, wiped out exhausted, and they said yes, that’s totally fine and expected and normal and really validated my feelings and me realise that it’s ok, and I was now someone who was really sick which is difficult to get your head around when you’ve not been sick, ever.”

Now officially cancer free, Sarah ran the Colour Dash race with her brother Joe and sister-in-law Jess last week to give back to Cancer Care West and the Daffodil Centres which were a huge help to her.

The Centre also offers counselling to family members and those affected by cancer as well as massages to patients.

Sarah has since returned to work at St. Joseph’s special school where she has received nothing but support from the principal, students and their families.

“I feel like there’s normality returning to my life. When you’re dealing with going to hospital and being told that you have a cancer diagnosis you suddenly enter a parallel universe that’s out of your comfort zone.

“Everything is so strange, and you don’t have a frame of reference for any of it and you feel very uncertain of everything.

“The support, love, understanding and kindness my amazing family, friends, colleagues at St. Joseph’s Special School [where she works in Newcastle], staff at Cancer Care West and the Irish Cancer Society have provided me with over the past nine months has kept me positive and completely focused on getting the all clear which I got today from St. Luke’s.

“My story is ultimately a happy one and I send strength to the families who don’t get to experience the happy ending I did.”

She hopes that Cancer Care West can produce more helpful booklets with the proceeds she raised. Sarah has a fundraising page that can be found here

Connacht Tribune

Covid boosts college coffers

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NUI Galway

NUI Galway reported an operating surplus of almost €19 million during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic when its campus was closed for months.

The healthy finances reported by NUIG has prompted its student body to call for it to waive repeat exams’ fees and student levies, and to invest in mental health services.

Consolidated financial statements for NUIG for the year ended September 30 2020 show the university reported an operating surplus of €18.9 million. This was up by €16 million on the surplus generated in 2019.

The financial statement said that while Covid-19 was ‘extremely challenging’, the ‘extraordinary dedication and work ethic of its staff have mitigated against the financial impact’ of the year.

The report said a surplus of €18.9 million was a ‘commendable performance’ given that 95%  of staff and students withdrew from campus in March 2020 to study and work remotely in line with Government regulations.

It noted that core income fell by a net €4 million compared with the previous year.

“Drops in research income of €9m and a Covid-related decline in commercial and student accommodation income of some €5m were offset by increased fee income of €4m, a €3m increase in the fair value of investments, and other increases of €3m relating to Government grants and other income,” the report said.

It said that the increase in Government grants includes Covid Support grant funding from the Higher Education Authority to cover additional specific Covid-19 related costs of €2.2m.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Workers leave hospitality sector to seek job security

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Pearse Doherty...morale has never been lower.

The severe restrictions for hospitality and entertainment are widely expected to be lifted next month – but already workers in the sector are reportedly leaving in their droves to source more stable employment.

And that could spell disaster for Galway’s vibrant arts industry which is a crucial cog in the wheel of local tourism.

When Covid regulations are eased for those staging events – thought to be announced this week – one of their biggest challenges is to secure staff for operations, according to prominent Galway event organiser Pearse Doherty.

Morale has never been lower in the industry, with even loyal customers getting fed up having to book and reschedule constantly when the goalposts shift so many times for shows.

“I really think it’s going to be very difficult for any venue going back or festival being staged. I don’t think things are ever going to go back to normal. Any event over 5,000 people will likely have to have fewer tents, a bigger space – all these things have to be taken into consideration for people who invest in the business,” he reflects.

“Having 50 per cent capacity and closing time at 8pm does nothing to make things financially viable. A lot of business models are built on having a bar and selling to 100 per cent capacity so I’m just not sure how many will survive the pandemic, even with all the very welcome Government supports for the industry.”

He knows of many in the industry who are changing careers or moving abroad in search of work in a location where restrictions nowhere as strict.

The head of production for the doomed Galway Capital of Culture 2020, head of production for Aiken Promotions which is behind the biggest gigs in the country and the site manager for the Electric Picnic, Pearse has himself pivoted in his career, taking up the role of producer with Fíbín Theatre at An Taibhdhearc.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway author dedicates children’s book to brave young nephew battling DMD

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Dedication....Fionn Brogan – new book aims to help in his fight.

A flying mouse with a skill for hurling is the subject of a book a Galway man has dedicated to his cousin’s son – six-year-old Fionn Brogan who, like Lumo the mouse, must overcome a myriad of challenges in his everyday life.

Ballinderreen man Tom Costelloe tells the Connacht Tribune he wrote the book to raise funds for his cousin Michael’s son, inspired by the strength and resilience Fionn has shown since his diagnosis of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) when he was just three years old.  A disease which attacks the muscles, DMD will leave Fionn unable to play football or do many of the things he loves to do as time goes on.

As a result, his family wants to raise enough funds to make the next few years the best possible for Fionn – and aim to adapt their house so he can freely use a power wheelchair among other alterations that will be required.

For Tom, who works as a speech and language therapist, the Covid lockdowns presented an opportunity to put pen to paper and create this story of Lumo, a mouse with wings.

“With a positive message of self-acceptance, the story is brought to life with wonderful colourful illustrations by Thomas Quinn from Kinvara.

“Like Lumo the flying mouse, Fionn and his family have no shortage of strength, resilience and sprit – and thanks to our printing costs being generously sponsored, every euro raised from the sales goes directly to the Fionn Brogan trust,” he says.

Tom, who lives in Galway City, says the family had a series of fundraisers over the past year and he hopes this will add to the momentum of achieving what’s necessary to support Fionn as he continues to defy all odds.

And through his work, he’s had a good research group to test-run Lumo – getting very positive feedback.

“I work with kids so they became my research team, and they were very useful in making sure the book was of interest,” he laughs.

‘Could a Flying Mouse Play Hurling?’ is available in in Clarke’s Pharmacy Kilcolgan, Burke’s Eurospar Kinvara, Circle-K Kinvara, Poppyseed Café Clarinbridge and First Chapter in Gort.  For more information on the Fionn Brogan Trust, visit fionnbrogantrust.ie where donations can also be made.

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