Kathleen’s Story

Remote But Not Alone

In June 2020 Kathleen Brennan noticed a lump under her arm and didn’t hesitate to contact her doctor who immediately sent her for tests. Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, things moved very fast and the tests soon confirmed she had cancer. While the cancer was of Unknown Primary (CUP), it had spread to the lymph nodes so in the third week of July Kathleen had surgery to remove the affected nodes, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Throughout her cancer journey the hardest part for Kathleen was the isolation. Kathleen and her husband live in a beautiful but remote spot overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in County Donegal. Due to the pandemic almost everything was closed and, as a result, they couldn’t avail of any of the normal services and supports. Being able to meet people who are going through something similar is a huge emotional support and without this kind of contact both Kathleen and her husband felt very alone as they tried to come to terms with her diagnosis. Luckily enough in addition to a very supportive family, they were surrounded by good neighbours who made sure they had what they needed and great friends who called them regularly to have the all-important chats. These gestures of kindness were vital to their emotional well-being and made a big difference to their lives at the time.

Around this time Kathleen became aware of Cancer Care West in Letterkenny and the services they offered. Soon she was able to participate in their online support services which became her lifeline. “I thought I was going mad some days. I was really anxious and stressed about the treatments and side effects. One of my most important contacts was Dr John Donohue at Cancer Care West who I spoke with every few weeks. John listened to all my worries, answered my questions and helped me to put things in perspective. He was also really helpful in giving me ideas on how I could deal with my emotions so I could remain calmer and more positive throughout the months. Patricia Doherty at Cancer Care West was another key member of my support team, always available on the phone to listen, patient and kind and again very helpful with my questions. Then as I got a little stronger I started remote rehabilitation physiotherapy with Emma Houlihan at the charity and this was the beginning of me getting back on my feet and regaining my independence.”

As patients go through cancer treatment they can often feel very cut off and adrift from everyday life. Having professional support to deal with all of this is really essential and makes a huge difference. Kathleen knows that her journey was especially difficult because of COVID-19 but she is just amazed at the supports Cancer Care West provide. “I was so grateful for the regular contact, it made everything more tolerable and sometimes felt like it kept me sane. Meeting the team in person has been great now but it was the remote services I used the most and for me they really did make an enormous difference.”

Kathleen’s world is very different to how it was back then. “The cancer diagnosis and treatment changed everything for me. I look on life quite differently now and treasure every minute I have. It’s been a tough year and a half but now I am looking forward to life with renewed energy and hope.” We at Cancer Care West wish Kathleen and her family the very best going forward.

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