My name is Mary O’Brien Walsh and in June 2015 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. At the time I was working as a nurse in Wexford General Hospital, was feeling particularly tired so decided to have my bloods done
I had worked in oncology myself many years ago so decided (God knows why) to test for tumour markers and low and behold the ovarian one was raised. I guess at that point I knew things weren't right. After talking to one of the gynaecologists I had an ultrasound which was suspicious then a CT scan confirmed bilateral ovarian tumours. I was referred to St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin and had surgery on Friday 31st July.
Without doubt, the most difficult thing at that time was having to tell our children aged 13 and 16 and my parents and family.
It’s amazing how you find an inner strength to get through difficult times, a strength that I never knew existed but with the support of my husband, children and wonderful family and friends I was ready to face what was to come. Surgery was followed by chemotherapy and I had my last chemo session on New year's eve 2015. Amazingly I found this the most difficult part, I now had time to reflect on what had happened and while you’d think I should have been happy that treatment was finally finished it was as though my mortality was suddenly very fragile and uncertain!
I availed of the services of The Hope Cancer Support Centre in Enniscorthy and it was there I bumped into Gay Murphy who told me about Relay for Life which was due to take place in July 2017, so without delay I signed up as a survivor.
Unfortunately Relay 2017 wasn't for me as I had a recurrence in June that year and needed further surgery which was complicated.
My recovery was further complicated when I developed a deep vein thrombosis. In January 2018 I started into another 5 months of chemotherapy.
Throughout that time I was determined that I wasn't going to miss another Relay and in July
I felt very privileged to wear the purple survivor's t-shirt. It was great to see so many faces that I had met on my journey and wonderful to join them for the survivors lap which, for me, was THE most emotional part of the day.
It was such a magnificent feeling to see everyone so happy, smiling, laughing, celebrating and having fun...and all because of cancer, who'd have thought that such positivity could come out of something so horrible. Of course there are tears too, tears for those still fighting and for those who fought so hard to stay with us but didn't make it…that’s very hard.
We remembered them all at the Candle of Hope Ceremony, so beautiful and peaceful and so very sad but so important to remember that they are a huge part of Relay.
I relayed again in 2019 and experienced all those very same emotions and I very much look forward to this year.
Relay is without doubt one of the highlights of the year. The picture below is my favourite, me with my gorgeous daughter at the end of the survivors lap, just about sums up Relay for me.