brave warrior | 

Cancer campaigner mum Fiona Lambert who raised over €20k with sea swims passes away

Fiona swam in the sea for 30 days and even enlisted RTE's PJ Gallagher to take a dip
Fiona Lambert

Fiona Lambert

Jamie McDowell

A brave mum-of-three who raised vital funds for those impacted by cancer while taking dips in the open sea has passed away.

Fiona Lambert (nee Kelly) was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017.

Having battled hard against the disease, her cancer returned two years later, and Fiona (43) was sadly told it was incurable.

However, in her refusal to bow down to the disease she decided to do a marathon 30 days of all-weather sea swims.

She even enlisted the help of RTE comedian PJ Gallagher, who braved the elements with her and donated €500 to Fiona’s causes, Breast Cancer Ireland and the oncology ward at Beaumount Hospital.

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.

During her swim-a-thon, Fiona managed to raise over a whopping €20,000 for the charity.

Speaking to the Sunday World back in May, Fiona explained: "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.

"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.

"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.”

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

Fiona Lambert

Fiona Lambert

"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 which is really tough.

"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."

When Fiona’s cancer returned, she was told it had spread.

"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.”

Speaking of how sea swimming helped her during her battle against cancer, Fiona said: "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.”

PJ (far right) read about Fiona Lambert's wish in the Sunday World

PJ (far right) read about Fiona Lambert's wish in the Sunday World

Fiona also suggested she’d like RTE’s PJ Gallagher to join her on a swim. When he saw the interview, he tracked Fiona down through social media and took the plunge as well.

Speaking to the Sunday World after his dip, he said: "I was over in my mam's and I had bought the Sunday World. I was just sitting there when someone text me to check out page 14 of the mag. So I did. I'd had a really sh***y week but I got a massive lift from reading Fiona's story and her mentioning that she would like me to go for a swim with her. She could have asked for George Clooney but she asked for me. What an honour.

"This is Ireland. It's tiny. So it didn't take long to track her down on social media and arrange a swim on Monday.

"I honestly got more out of it than Fiona did. She's incredible. She was on day 26. I was only on day one.

PJ Gallagher with Fiona and the gang

PJ Gallagher with Fiona and the gang

"I hate sea swimming so much. I'm not at all into it. I volunteer for the lifeboats so I am in the water a lot but I am always in full wetsuits and life jackets.

"But it was Baltic on Monday evening when we went. Fiona said it was particularly cold that night to be fair. But she could have just been saying that to me to make me feel better.”

Speaking after their splash, Fiona, who became an ambassador for the Great Pink Run in September, laughed: “Last week was really difficult but PJ definitely gave me the boost and the morale to keep going. I can't believe how much money we have raised."

A funeral notice for Fiona read: ‘LAMBERT, Fiona, (née Kelly) – 1st January 2022, (Harmonstown, Dublin and formerly of Clontarf), Peacefully, surrounded by her loving family and in the exceptional care of staff at Beaumont Hospital. Dearly beloved wife of Darren and loving mother of Keelin, Jamie and Mia. Deeply missed by her husband and children, her parents Tony and Gay, brother and sisters Orla, Niamh and Seán, mother-in-law Ger and father-in-law George, brothers-in-law, sister-in-law, her three godsons, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, extended family and her many friends.’

Her funeral mass will take place at St Gabriel’s Church, Dollymount, on Thursday at 10.30am.

Fiona and her family have asked for any donations, if desired, to be made to Breast Cancer Ireland.

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