Friends whose cancer journeys coincided raise funds

Two friends who were each diagnosed with breast cancer within months of one another are raising awareness of the disease to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October.

iriam Brosnan and Antoinette O’Keeffe’s campaign of awareness culminated in the pair completing a 10km run in their native Knocknagoshel/Brosna area, in conjunction with the VHI Virtual Women’s Mini Marathon recently.

The duo travelled the road from Headley’s Bridge to Feale’s Bridge and back to complete the challenge – despite the fact that Miriam is still undergoing chemo and Antoinette has just completed her treatment.

And to cap it all, the response to the fundraiser has far exceeded their initial target of €500, with no less than €7,043 raised as of Monday this week.

“We can’t thank people enough for their support,” Miriam told The Kerryman this week. “Everyone has been fantastic, from our families to our friends and friends of friends, all of whom have given so generously. We suggested a target of €1,000 initially but thought that too cheeky so went for €500 instead.”

The awareness-raising run sees Miriam and Antoinette approaching the end of what has been for them, a year of particularly testing circumstances.

Miriam was diagnosed on the very day the lock-down came into effect in March – just a few months after Antoinette was diagnosed in November. And her diagnosis might not nearly have been as early but for Antoinette’s experience being to the fore of her mind.

“It was some shock, you just don’t think it’s ever going to happen to you,” Miriam explained. “My diagnosis came on the first day of the lock-down. I remember driving to Dublin that day for the mammogram as the whole of the country locked down…I had no lump but I had pain and I just knew something wasn’t right. Antoinette’s diagnosis was in my head as well as it had just been in November.

“But one of the good things is that we were able to be there for each other. We were good friends already because we have teenagers the same age and used to share the school runs.”

Miriam’s husband Noel and Antoinette’s husband John, and children, have been their rocks throughout the ordeal. But having someone going through the very same ordeal to talk to was of immense benefit to each.

“Antoinette was brilliant for me as she was ahead of me in the journey,” said Miriam. “She was just fantastic to talk to about it, remaining very upbeat and positive all the way through.

“As it happened I had my surgery first, followed by chemo, while Antoinette had it the other way around and we ended up having surgery within two days of each other.

“Now we’re really hoping to raise more awareness of the disease, especially among younger women. My advice is to listen to your gut if you have any concerns and get it checked out. Don’t let it go by, and if there is something there, the earlier it is found the better the chances of making a good recovery.”

Miriam is now hoping to draw a line under 2020, anticipating her last course of radiotherapy on December 31, once her remaining five rounds of chemo – to which she is responding very well to – are complete. She also thanked her employers, Kelliher’s Electrical in Tralee, for their great support and understanding all the way through. – News