Sandra Dolan has raised the grand total of €14,070 for Roscommon Cancer Support Services at Vita House in Roscommon town following her coffee morning and raffle fundraising efforts in Lecarrow last month.
The Tonlagee, Cloverhill woman was just 43 in October 2017 when she discovered a lump that would change her life forever. Within weeks, the busy mother of two young children was diagnosed with breast cancer and left to face a gruelling treatment plan in Portiuncula and The Galway Clinic.
“I found a lump in October 2017 and I went (to the doctor) straight away with it because I just didn’t like the feel of it. So I went in and was diagnosed with breast cancer in early November 2017,” she said.
The months that followed were spent receiving treatment in Ballinasloe and Galway. The normal demands of everyday life were forced to take a back seat to Sandra’s new reality; bouts of chemotherapy and radiotherapy sandwiched between two surgeries.
Sandra, who works for the HSE in Roscommon University Hospital, came to rely on Roscommon Cancer Support Services at Vita House during the traumatic ordeal.
“I went from being like everybody else; working every day and busy with the kids, running and racing around, and next thing you’re hit with this bombshell. It’s like a rollercoaster; you just get on and one thing happens after another. You just can’t can’t catch your breath at all.
“My mother had passed away a year before I was diagnosed with cancer and I had been trying to get her into Vita House. I thought it would really do her good. I tried a few times but she just didn’t want to attend. But when I got sick I just thought ‘Oh my God I have to go in now’. I came in (to Vita House) and I met Naomi, the counsellor, and the therapists. At the time there was a monthly Cancer Support meeting so it was just fantastic,” she said.
Sandra is eternally grateful to her family, friends and wonderful neighbours for their support during her darkest days. She also paid tribute to Vita House for giving her another outlet.
“Everyone says the same thing when you’re going through cancer: ‘Oh be positive, be positive’. Of course you have to be positive but when you’re feeling like crap it’s not always easy. Vita House was somewhere safe where if you did feel like crap it was grand. There was no expectation so you didn’t have to be like ‘Oh I’m great’. Even though you’re going through chemo and have no hair! I found the support unbelievable because it’s so easy to get down during treatment”.
The diagnosis was also difficult on her husband James as well as for her daughter Rachel and son Robbie, who were just twelve and nine at the time.
“I had been my mother’s carer and you think that’s bad but when it’s yourself and you have young kids it’s just devastating. You want to have the least effect on them as you can. I suppose they were at an age when they’re trying to find their feet and now they have all this going on. It was brutal,” she said.
It wasn’t the Dolans’ first experience of the devastating effects of the disease, and it was following the death of James’ sister earlier this year that Sandra decided she would raise funds and awareness of cancer support services.
“My sister-in-law passed away from cancer in March, aged 55, and we had her Mass and then there was a fundraiser down in Fourmilehouse for Vita House. We went to the Mass and then went across to the fundraiser and I was just thinking of the amount of women I knew who were sick. I told my husband James that this was something I could do and that evening I enquired about booking the community centre in Lecarrow for our tea/coffee morning and raffle”.
Neighbours Marie and Seán Mahon sponsored the printing of tickets before they were sold to “anyone who stood still long enough”, according to Sandra. It was a huge effort from family, friends and work colleagues and €6,000 was lodged with Vita House even before the fundraiser in Lecarrow.
“I’m so grateful to everyone who helped raise money, whether they sold or bought tickets, baked or helped out on the day. People are so good and there were so many who would come up to me and offered help,” she said.
Sandra said she would recommend the cancer support services at Vita House and she was also keen to highlight the range of wigs available at Galaxy Hair and Beauty in Roscommon town for those who lose their hair during treatment.
“Cancer is widespread, there’s nobody safe from it. Everybody has someone close to them who has suffered from it. I was aware of the cancer support services at Vita House because my mother was so sick and I felt had to raise awareness of it for other people coming down the line,” she said.