Mum’s plea: ‘Please help save my life’
A 40-year-old Ballinasloe mother has launched a public appeal for donations to undergo immunotherapy as a last-ditch attempt to save her life.
Primary school teacher Audrey Morgan Kindregan was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2011. She underwent a radical hysterectomy and internal radiation or brachytherapy but the cancer returned over two years later.
She was treated with a grueling course of chemotherapy, radiation and brachytherapy. By 2016 she learned the disease had struck yet again when she noticed abnormal bleeding. This time she had reached the limit of radiation and chemo so her medical team had no choice but to go down a radical surgical route.
The pelvic exenteration surgery involved removing all female reproductive organs, in addition to her bladder, urethra and all tissue in the pelvic cavity and necessitated her having a urostomy, which allows urine to exit the body via a stoma in the stomach.
Recovery from the life-changing operation was slow and complicated as Audrey was hit with many complications, including kidney blockages and lymphedema
Last May she received the dreaded news that two cancer tumours and cancer spots had been detected.
“I just couldn’t believe it. My family couldn’t believe it and my poor son was terribly shocked and affected by this traumatizing news. My heart went out to Oisin, my poor boy who has seen enough cancer in a small few years to last him a lifetime. My options at this stage were limited to one – palliative chemotherapy.”
After one session she decided against continuing the chemo due to its harsh effects on her already depleted immune system. She feels she has no option but to undergo an immunotherapy treatment called Pembrolizumab.
“Immunotherapy is a ground-breaking way of treating cancer because unlike chemotherapy it doesn’t spread through the body like poison killing both good and bad cells. Instead, it works with your immune system in building an immunity to fight against cancer. Researchers feel that the future of the fight against cancer lies in immunotherapy.”
Unlike in the USA, immunotherapy is not yet licensed in Ireland for cervical cancer patients so the HSE are extremely reluctant to fund it. There is no current clinical trial here.
“Essentially my hands are tied with regard to accessing the drug,” Audrey reflects.
A fortnight ago she launched a plea on a crowd funding website for help in paying for immunotherapy, which costs in the region of €8,500 per session and is carried out once every three weeks.
Since the diagnosis, she has been forced to take long leaves of absence from her teaching job at Scoil an Chroí Naofa in Ballinasloe. Her husband Shane is an aircraft maintenance engineer who had to transfer from Galway Airport to Dublin Airport when the former closed down in 2013. He lives in Dublin during the week returning at weekends to be with Audrey and their son Oisin, 12, at their home in Ballymacward.
“It’s far from ideal but just because a person gets cancer, doesn’t mean the bills stop coming through the door. In actual fact they increase your monthly family costs through the addition of medical costs, medication, therapeutic equipment, travel to appointments, childcare for Oisin and the list goes on. I have been receiving no pay for the most part of my struggle,” she reveals.
“This is a very difficult task for me to ask people to donate to a fund in a bid to save my life.”
So far €55,000 has been raised in under a fortnight. She has set a target of €150,000.
“The way the page took off has me in awe. People have been so kind with their love, their words, their time and their money. I’m overwhelmed when I look at the page,” she admits.
Audrey has just spent two weeks in University Hospital Galway and has been transferred to St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin under the care of a new consultant who is willing to prescribe the drug privately.
“As soon as my situation improves they will start the immunotherapy – hopefully this week and I’ll have my first dose over by the time I’m leaving St Vincent’s Hospital. The treatment goes on indefinitely.
“I had a really bad weekend and nobody thought I’d see the opportunity to get any immunotherapy but I’ve a fight in me.”
■ Donations can be made on gofundme.
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Nurses call in Chief Fire Officer on ED overcrowding
The nurses’ union has formally urged the Chief Fire Officer to investigate 17 alleged breaches of the fire regulations as a result of chronic overcrowding in the emergency department at University Hospital Galway.
It’s the second time the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has done so since Christmas, fearing the lives of staff and patients are being put in grave danger.
The emergency department was busier than normal last week, with between 222 and 251 patients turning up to be seen per day. On Wednesday of last week there were 53 patients waiting on trolleys, according to figures released by the Saolta Hospital group. That went down to 47 on Thursday and Friday.
This week has seen little let up. On Monday and Tuesday the number of people who could only get a trolley was down to 36 and 38 respectively.
Local area representative of the INMO, Anne Burke, said as a result of very high attendances at the temporary emergency department, management had opened a transit area where between 12 and 14 people could be accommodated in cubicles.
Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.
Comer has eyes on the prize
If you Google Damien Comer, the first entry the search returns is a dedicated Wikipedia page, which declares: “He’s better than David Clifford”.
And while Wikipedia as a source of fact isn’t necessarily always reliable, who are we to argue with it?
But whatever about comparisons with Kerry greats, the Annaghdown clubman is certainly up there among Galway’s finest ever footballers.
Winning a first All-Star last season, from his third nomination, was proof of that. It was a special personal accolade, but he’d trade it in a shot for a Celtic Cross.
“It was nice to get but if I finish my career not having won an All-Ireland, I’ll be very disappointed,” he declared.
Comer hints that the 2022 All-Ireland final loss to Kerry last July was not one of his better games in maroon, and it’s one he thinks about regularly.
“Yeah, I would yeah, I’d think about it a bit. But I try to forget it as well, because it wasn’t a good day for me, personally, anyway.
“You try to forget about it and yet you have to try to learn from it and improve on the mistakes you made, and stuff you didn’t do that you should’ve done, and different things that you can bring to this season.
“It’s one that’s hard to forget about really because we were there for so long. Sixty minutes in, neck-and-neck, and then they just pulled away, so it was disappointing,” he said.
Damien Comer has teamed up with Specsavers to encourage people to take a more proactive approach to their eye and hearing health. There’s a full interview with him ahead of Sunday’s National Football League Final, is in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.
Galway publican reflects on traumatic journey that ended with his abuser in jail
Galway businessman Paul Grealish remembers the moment back in 2000 when he was given a sheet of paper and asked to write about his life. He was on weekend-long self-development course that he’d been sent on by his brother John. At the time, John was managing director of their family business for which Paul and their sister, Joan, also worked.
“The course was probably done in an attempt to make it easier to manage me,” says Paul with a laugh, adding that he “was tough to manage” back then.
He was enjoying the course – until he received that blank sheet.
“I got about four or five sentences in, writing about my early life. Until I got to the primary school part . . . I was in tears,” he remembers. “I was so used to compartmentalising things, I didn’t see the danger.”
In the early 1970s, aged nine and ten years, Paul had been beaten and sexually abused by his teacher, Brother Thomas Caulfield, at Tuam CBS primary school.
He had repressed those memories for nearly three decades.
“You bury the memory, and you bury it as deep as you can. There’s an awareness of something terrible there but it’s too frightening for you to actively remember.”
Paul was so terrified of those memories that he’d lost all recollection of his childhood. He couldn’t tell his story.
He was meant to show it to one of the course leaders – a counsellor, he thinks. Instead, Paul put the nearly-blank sheet before the man and explained what had happened.
Realising Paul’s plight, that man gave him a list of phone numbers for counsellors in Galway.
“Every now and again, I’d look at it and think about ringing them but I didn’t,” Paul says.
However, the abuse that had robbed Paul of his childhood and blighted his adulthood with feelings of guilt and self-hatred refused to stay buried. Finally, he knew he had to deal with it. That journey began in the early 2000s and Paul finally got closure earlier this month when Caulfield was sentenced to 27 months in prison – with the final seven suspended – for his crime.
Read Paul’s full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.