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brave mum 'I told my girls in a very simplistic way, I didn't even mention the word cancer'

Siobhán, from Stepaside in Co Dublin, is one of thousands of cancer patients who've had to face a life-changing illness in a year like no other.

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Siobhán Marsh

Siobhán Marsh

Siobhan, with her husband Gregg and their daughters, says she had to have her chemotherapy treatment alone due to Covid restrictions

Siobhan, with her husband Gregg and their daughters, says she had to have her chemotherapy treatment alone due to Covid restrictions

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Siobhán Marsh

As Siobhán Marsh prepared to face breast cancer surgery in the middle of a pandemic, her friends made a moving gesture to lend their love and support.

Covid-19 meant no hospital visits and she would have to undergo the surgery on her own. But on the morning of her operation, her childhood friends lined up to wish her the best.

"There was no one coming in. There was no visitors allowed into the hospital at all. My three very best friends arrived outside the hospital on the morning I had to go in for surgery, and stood outside. We've been friends since we were in school, so very long standing friends.

"Louise, Olive and Tara, they stood from afar, and I stood on the footpath. And we talked. And they were very good at not crying. They did great until I left apparently!

"I kept saying: 'I'm not losing sleep about this. So you don't lose sleep about it. Come on now. Keep going. And we'll be back having dinner in town soon'. That was emotional."

Siobhán, from Stepaside in Co Dublin, is one of thousands of cancer patients who've had to face a life-changing illness in a year like no other.

Now she's giving her support to an Irish Cancer Society campaign to show the real-life impact a cancer diagnosis has on patients and their loved ones.

The 'Still Here, Every Step of the Way' campaign comes just weeks before the charity holds its second Daffodil Day in a row virtually, on March 26.

She's doing so in the hope of offering encouragement to others facing a recent cancer diagnosis. Last week, she celebrated with husband Gregg and their daughters Caoilfhinn (10) and eight-year-old Millie after completing her final round of chemotherapy.

She begins radiotherapy treatment next month.

"I felt very happy to give back or to do something positive to put out that this can be OK. Especially maybe for someone who's just gotten a diagnosis or found a lump or is not feeling well and worried about going to see about it. And to use the supports that are there because there's a huge amount of support.

"I've been lucky with my actual illness in that it was caught early and dealt with quickly."

It was last summer when she first noticed a lump on her right breast while propped up in bed one morning.

"I put my arm above my head to rest my head on my arm. I could feel a lump straight away, as clear as day. I went and rang my GP that morning."

She was referred for a triple assessment, where various tests including a mammogram and biopsy are carried out, within a week. The doctor told her that while results would take up to a week to come back, that his view was the lump was suspicious.

"I thought, right, get your head on now, there's something there. Get ready, get organised to face this. Whereas that first week between going to my GP and going to the hospital for the assessment, I was very emotional. After I spoke to him I was much more able to go, OK there'll be a plan of action.

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Siobhan, with her husband Gregg and their daughters, says she had to have her chemotherapy treatment alone due to Covid restrictions

Siobhan, with her husband Gregg and their daughters, says she had to have her chemotherapy treatment alone due to Covid restrictions

Siobhan, with her husband Gregg and their daughters, says she had to have her chemotherapy treatment alone due to Covid restrictions

"From finding the lump it was August 25, and I had surgery on September 15. So very, very quick and I had the lump removed from my breast. I had six weeks off for recovery from the surgery and then I started chemotherapy.

"I think I'm someone who's quite emotionally self resilient anyway, when it comes to dealing with things that are problematic. However, obviously, I needed huge amounts of support from my closest family and my family needed support as well."

As well as her surgery - which was successful - and consultations, she had to attend her chemotherapy sessions on her own because of Covid protective measures.

"It would be very normal for your husband, or I'm very close to my sister, to be in hospital, or my friends. I've never done this - so I only know one way of doing it and that's the pandemic way. Everyone was on their own where in other times, my husband or my sister would have been taking turns to come and sit with me during the chemo. So, yeah, that was different, to say the least."

One of the things Siobhán found most difficult was telling her family, including her dad, and her girls. "There are two levels. I told my girls in a very, very simplistic way, I didn't even mention the word cancer. I said there was something that wasn't working under my arm. And I needed to go and have an operation to get it fixed.

"I went to the Irish Cancer Society website and there was some good information there about talking to family, talking to children, which was helpful for someone who's in this for the first time ever; it was a good resource."

Siobhán hopes her story will offer support to others whose lives are affected by cancer. "It's completely normal to be in the middle of your life, in charge of your life, running your family, or running your career and your family. And this comes upon you and you fall, you falter, and feel: 'Oh, my God, I don't know if I can actually handle this'.

"I think being strong is reaching out and looking for help and knowing that even in this year, and it is just a crazy off-the-wall year, but even in this circumstance, the support is still there."

Daffodil Day takes place virtually on March 26. For more information on how you can support the Irish Cancer Society's work, log on to cancer.ie


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