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Connacht Tribune

Living with cancer

Judy Murphy

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Helen Greally, the Director of Psychology and Support Services with Cancer Care West. “There isn’t any place in the country where you have the services of a centre like this one,” she says. Photos: Iain McDonald.

Lifestyle – Cancer Care West provides a welcoming space and homely atmosphere for cancer patients both during and after their treatment. Last year, the service supported 1,400 people who were taught not alone how to live with their diagnosis but, in most cases, how to live well with it. Judy Murphy details the positive impact of this vital service.

“We want people to take responsibility for their own lives and support them to do that,” says Helen Greally, the Director of Psychology and Support Services with Cancer Care West.

The organisation that provides free and confidential counselling and support to people with cancer and their carers, has been based in the Westside of Galway city since 2009.

It’s housed in a commercial unit where the impersonal exterior gives no indication of the homely atmosphere within. The bright, airy drop-in space has a kitchen area, complete with dresser, and a long communal table, ideal for meals and discussions. Off that room, secluded corners and cubbyholes cater for more private moments.

Across the corridor, a suite of rooms hosts meetings and events, including counselling, meditation, yoga tai-chi and art-therapy as well as play-therapy for children.

Cancer Care West is unique in that the psycho-oncology support it provides is based in the community – it works in conjunction with oncology services in local hospitals.

The Centre saw 1,400 people last year, about two-thirds of whom were patients – the rest were family members and carers. Of the 1,400, some people dropped in three or four times, giving a total of 6,500 visits.

“Some people come to yoga and tai-chi every week and that creates a bond,” says Helen Greally, pointing out that all those people have been through the experience of cancer, which helps to forge a unique fellowship of support.

Coming to these classes, which also include relaxation, art and exercise, is a very simple way of getting people back into having a structure in their lives, during and post-treatment because “the social isolation around cancer is huge”.

Other services offered include manual lymphatic drainage, reflexology and massage as well as benefits advice.

Cancer Care West is a place that doesn’t stand still and next month, a new gym will open in the building’s top floor – an acknowledgement of the role exercise plays in helping people with cancer.

The upstairs space became available earlier this year and Cancer Care West leased it, effectively doubling the 3,000 square feet the centre currently occupies.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Exploring the merits of moving into the west

Dave O'Connell

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Mary Kennedy with Carol Ho, one of the Galway interviewees for her new TG4 series, Moving West. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.

“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.

These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.

But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.

Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.

One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.

The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing

Dave O'Connell

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Well saved...members of St Brendan's GAA Club honour their departed stalwart, John Geraghty, after a record-breaking evening saving his turf.

A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.

They lifted and footed his turf.

John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.

He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.

“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.

Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!

“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.

Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.

They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.

Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat

Denise McNamara

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Daddy’s girl…Sadhbh Browne with her very special message on organ donations. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.

After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.

“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”

But it could have all been so different.

Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.

She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.

Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.

Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.

Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.

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