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Brave mum Fiona explains why she's making a splash with her fundraising sea dips for charity

'In the past I couldn't even say the word cancer... now I want to enjoy my life'
Fiona Lambert, who passed away on New Year's Day, took part in 30 Sea Swims for charity, pictured at Bull Island in Clontarf, Dublin.

Fiona Lambert, who passed away on New Year's Day, took part in 30 Sea Swims for charity, pictured at Bull Island in Clontarf, Dublin.

Denise Smith

For 30 days Fiona Lambert will throw herself into the wilds of the open sea, raising funds, and more importantly, a middle finger to cancer.

The 42-year-old mum of three was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. Two years later, her cancer returned, and this time, it was incurable.

Refusing to bow down to the disease, the Dubliner, who works in the civil service, has decided to make a splash and raise life-saving funds for those impacted by the Big C by braving the elements and doing 30 Days of Sea Swims.

Fiona swimming with her three children alongside pal Siobhán Clerkin and her two children.

Fiona swimming with her three children alongside pal Siobhán Clerkin and her two children.

"I've got to a place where I can talk about it now, whereas a couple of years ago, I couldn't even say the word cancer," reveals the Dubliner who is paying it forward to the wonderful team on the day oncology ward in Beaumount Hospital, and Breast Cancer Ireland.

"What I want now is to make a difference - so for 30 days, regardless of the weather I am throwing myself into the Irish Sea."

Tenacious and fun-loving, Fiona wants to uplift those around her with her story of survival.

"On my second diagnosis in 2019, I was searching for a happy story, a positive story.

"I would ask the nurses in the ward, 'How long is your longest patient here?' I wanted somebody to tell me that I could do treatment for years.

"There are people out there who are on treatment for 12 years, people living good lives.

"I don't want people who are suffering with this, necessarily to think that it's easy. I just want people to know that there's a positive story, and you can live really well with treatment.

"There are days that are hard - really, really hard. I get chemo on a Friday, and Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday is really tough.

Fiona with her husband Darren.

Fiona with her husband Darren.

"My husband [Darren] could come in, and I'll just be sitting there crying. You know, it's not easy. But then there are all those good days in-between and I am living a very fulfilled life."

In January 2017, Fiona was diagnosed with breast cancer which left her reeling with shock. "I found a lump and I think I waited for about six months before I went to get it checked because I just never thought it could be something. I was only 38.

"Of course that wasn't the case, I underwent intensive treatments, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and I also had a mastectomy, my right breast was removed.

"I thought it was the worst year of my life up until 2019 but I was told the chemo was preventative, that they actually got it all in surgery."

A semblance of normality returned and life resumed with Fiona celebrating a new decade with hopes of health and happiness.

But that wasn't to be. "The earliest I can remember the pain in my neck was the night of my 40th birthday party.

"I was doing an exercise programme called the 'Move On Programme' with Dr Noel McCaffrey - it's for anyone recovering from cancer or living with a long-term illness.

"I went to the doctors three times and they told me that I probably pulled something in the gym.

"One evening I was actually watching a movie with the kids and my niece and nephew and we were dancing around the living room and something pulled in my neck and I couldn't move properly. I knew something wasn't right so I booked my own scan in the Swift Clinic and I thought they would tell I had pulled a muscle, but I was told to go straight back to my team in Beaumont."

Devastatingly, Fiona's cancer had returned and spread to her liver and spine. "It had gone into my cervical spine, the portion of your spine that runs through your neck so that is why my neck was so painful.

"They put me in my neck brace because they were afraid the bone would collapse in my neck and then they found small spots in my liver.

Fiona braves the cold to take a dip with friends Emma, Orla and Antoinette.

Fiona braves the cold to take a dip with friends Emma, Orla and Antoinette.

"I was admitted for 10 days because we had to do all sorts of tests and at that stage I was told that it was not curable, but it's treatable.

"It took me a long time to accept that. It is such a huge thing for your mind to try and absorb and it really did impact my mental health so I really took to mindfulness. You just never think this is going to happen to you.

"I do think of holidays I want to go on; I'd love to go to Florida with the children and there's so many milestones I look forward to, and then I'm brought back down to earth.

"Sometimes when I'm on the ward, or I'm getting scan results - I get a scan every three months - even the consultants say, 'You just have to learn to live day by day as opposed to planning ahead'. And that's tough."

When those thoughts bubble to the fore, there's nothing more soothing than the call of the sea.

"Swimming has been an escape for me and everyone has gotten behind me. It really is overwhelming. My team group from work surprised me the other day and came to watch me swim and so have my family. I have somebody different with me every day. My children and husband have been amazing. Jack McCaffrey who used to play for Dublin swam with me, it's been incredible.

Fiona Lambert

Fiona Lambert

But who is Fiona's dream celebrity swimming companion? "Someone funny," the devoted mum admits. "Maybe Hector or PJ Gallagher, I probably wouldn't be able to swim though, I'd just be laughing. Or Jamie Redknapp - that would be a dream.

"So far we have raised close to €12,000 which truly is phenomenal. My original goal was €1,000, I cannot believe people's generosity.

"This isn't how I would choose to live my life but I am still living and leading a good life."

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