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Community rallies to support mum in cancer battle

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A Christmas treat for her small children was to take on greater life-changing consequences than one Galway mother could ever have imagined – after she collapsed and doctors discovered she was suffering from terminal cancer.

But Olive Shaughnessy is determined to fight with everything she has – and her friends and community are four-square behind her in her battle…as well as helping her to meet mounting medical expenses for treatment of her terminal condition.

By Thérèse Hannon

The 40 year old native of Portumna now lives in Killeenadeema, Loughrea, with her husband Tom and their four children – John (9), Kate (7), Luke (6), and Kevin (3).

But her life changed irrevocably on December 19 last, as the children broke up for Christmas holidays; Olive took them, as is their tradition, for a trip to the cinema – to see Paddington Bear.

After the screening, she dropped in to pick up some Christmas baubles. And as she puts it so succinctly: “As I bent down to pick up an item I began to see double – and that was it. I don’t remember anything else”.

Olive suffered a burst blood vessel and a broken neck that day. Doctors identified holes in her bones and gave her the dreaded diagnosis – Stage 4, metastatic cancer.

The diagnosis hasn’t stop Olive – a charismatic and jovial extrovert – from leading a full and positive life. Asked how she copes with the realities of terminal cancer she replies; “there’s nothing I feel alone with; I feel very supported”.

Her philosophy is to “keep fighting all the way”. She chooses to see the positive in every situation adding: “I see this as an opportunity to look at life in a different way, to see the positives – all the good there is in the world.”

Olive attributes her strength to the fact that she has ‘always had an incredible faith in God’, adding: “if you have faith at all, you won’t be doing so bad.”

Olive believes in being open and honest about her illness. There is transparency in their household, their children are aware of her condition.

“The word cancer isn’t taboo; discussing cancer with the children gives a greater insight into the process and a fuller understanding about why things are changing,” she says.

Though Olive is courageous in the face of adversity, illness has taken its toll. Her cancer has resulted in a broken neck, corrected by intramedullary nailing. Consequently she is unable to turn her head or pick up her children.

The cancer has spread to her lymph nodes, down her spine, into her neck and her lungs.

“There’s no such thing as me walking out saying – ‘I’m cancer free’. I know I will be receiving chemo every three weeks in UHG for the rest of her life, but I will keep fighting all the way,” she says.

Her husband, Tom, who was working four days a week in Dublin, has since left his job to be home with his terminally ill wife and their four children.

But that means Olive and Tom are now both out of work, and with escalating medical bills and four children under nine to support, the family are understandably under intense financial strain.

Hope arrived when her former biology teacher John Joe Conwell came to her side. Olive was a student of John Joe’s, graduating in the class of ’93. She describes him as being ‘like a dad’ to her in the past few months.

John Joe is the assistant chairman of Portumna Cycling Club and organizer of the ‘Olive Aughty Challenge’, which will take place on Saturday, August 9; registration for the event will take place in The Engine Room, Portumna at 8am.

The Cycle is open to all ages and all fitness levels. There are three strands to the cycle 15k, 50k and 100k. For the 15k cycle, tickets are priced at €10 (single) and €20 (family ticket). The 50k and 100k cycle tickets are priced at €20 and €25 respectively.  Businesses are also encouraged to enter teams, with rates of €100 for a team of four.

The 100k Cycle is mapped out to be a most scenic route, covering three lakes – Lough Cutra, Lough Graney and Lough Derg. And Mark Rohan, a member of the Irish Paracycling Squad will attend and lead out the cycle.

And this is not the first time the people of Portumna have shown their caring nature; the 10k Portumna Forest Park Trail Run, held back in April 6, saw proceeds going to help support the Shaughnessy family.

John Joe – a prolific writer and historian – has also been working to help Olive in collating her journals for a book they are writing together.

Through all of this, Olive is still receiving chemotherapy for her illness in UHG. Asked whether she would be in form to attend the event she responded with fervour “wild horses wouldn’t keep me away!”

Love of family and love of community is central to Olive’s story. Olive declares “the power of people is unbelievable, I can’t express it enough” she has been left overwhelmed by the kindness of the village.

Two local farmers Dermot Brehony and Michael D’Arcy, kindly donated four hoppers of turf to the family. There was a joint community effort in footing the turf and getting it home to the family.

Olive started documenting her story after her attack in December. She writes a blog, which she describes as being very “therapeutic”.

Her book has become very important to her “that book means so much to me… I love getting up and getting time to think”.

Olive is a morning person she wakes early and “types away until I hear the ‘pitter patter’ of feet down the stairs”.

Then, she puts the laptop away, and enjoys precious time with her children.

■ For more information on the charity cycle race ‘Olive Aughty Challenge’ contact info@portumnacc.com  To check out Olive’s blog, visit www.mycoffaith.wordpress.com

CITY TRIBUNE

GAA club’s tournament honours stalwart who died at just 28

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Pictured at the launch of the Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament which takes place in Mervue this Saturday. Back: Kevin Curran, Kevin Barrett, Robert Fitzgerald, Aidan Brady, Alan O'Donnell, Donal Murphy, Eanna O'Connell, Eoghan Frain, David Henry. Front: Aodhain Ó Conghaile, Liam O'Donnell, Rory Murphy, Fionn Fitzgerald and Michael Barrett.

The untimely passing of a city GAA stalwart six years ago is still deeply felt by the club he represented but he remains an inspiration to young up-and-coming footballers who will be displaying their skills this weekend.

The Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament for under-age teams will take place in St James’ GAA grounds at Mervue tomorrow, Saturday, when many memories of a great young clubman will be exchanged.

Darragh, from Lurgan Park in Renmore, was just 28 years of age when he lost his battle with cancer in 2016. Since then his beloved club has been organising a tournament for young footballers that’s proving immensely popular.

For tomorrow’s event, the St James club will entertain local teams including St Michael’s, Salthill-Knocknacarra, Killanin and an Cheathrú Rua, as well as Kiltane (Bangor Erris) and Elphin-Ballinameen from North Roscommon.

It is a nine-a-side tournament, which takes place from 11am to 5pm, and will involve Under-11 teams who will compete against each other during the day.

The fact that Darragh’s late father, Tom Frain Senior, hailed from Roscommon means that GAA support for the event is coming from both counties – this makes it extra special, as well as adding to the profile of the tournament.

Best friend and one of the event’s main organisers, another St James stalwart David Henry explained that this was the sixth year of the tournament and that Darragh would be very pleased that his name was being associated with the development of under-age football.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Too many cafés’ as city retail continues to decline

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Barber Tom Nally outside his premises.

The changing face of Galway city centre is a source of concern to those who say it reflects a decline for people in terms of retail choices.

Those who regret the loss of several long-standing family-run operations in the city in recent years don’t believe that what has replaced them has enhanced the appearance of Shop Street, in particular.

“We are looking at a proliferation of coffee shops, bookies and mobile phone outlets in their place,” observed long-standing city centre businessman Tom Nally.

Cllr Niall McNelis agreed there were far too many coffee shops in the city centre and believed that anything that has been zoned retail by the Council should remain retail.

The Labour Councillor said a proper retail strategy needed to be adopted and some of the ‘big-name brands’ needed to be encouraged into the centre of Galway to lure shoppers into town.

Meanwhile, popular barber Tom Nally regretted the number of family operations that have ceased trading in the recent past.

“It is sad to see the long-established family businesses in the city centre going and it would be great to say that what is replacing them will enhance our streets . . . but unfortunately this is not the case,” he added.

Mr Nally who has been operating out of his High Street premises for almost 50 years, said the number of unoccupied premises in an around the city centre was a new phenomenon.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

State cracks down on quick-buck landlords

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New measures to clamp down on illegal short-term lets in the city will kick in next month, in an attempt to tackle mounting pressure on the rental market.

From September 1, sites such as Airbnb and Booking.com will no longer be allowed to advertise short-term rentals if the correct planning permission is not in place.

The measure seeks to strengthen laws introduced in 2019 which state that the use of a property for short-term letting for longer than 90 days in a rent-pressure zone requires permission from the local authority.

City Councillor Niall Murphy (Green) said the move follows on from an objection he lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI).

“The ASAI said it couldn’t be expected to police these ads so the websites like Airbnb were off the hook. But after September, they will have to ensure that those advertising on their sites have planning permission,” he said.

The proliferation of short-term lets in the city has been a contentious issue for a number of years, with scores of holiday leases available at the same time as city residents are battling it out for an extremely limited number of rental properties.

This week, almost 400 short-term lets were available on the leading website, Airbnb, while just 19 homes were up for rent on Daft.ie.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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