‘Everything takes over, you get very emotional’

Rosie Kearney Burke is originally from Finglas but is now living in Castlerea. Rosie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and was full of praise for the role Vita House played in her treatment and subsequent recovery.

  “I found a lump on the 30th of August 2014. I had an operation on the 25th of September that year and then started chemo that November.

  “At the start I had an allergic reaction to the drug they were using and the treatment had to be stopped. I was panicking, thinking: ‘What if they haven’t killed it all? How will they treat it?’”

  Rosie’s treatment was altered due to her reaction and following her course of chemotherapy, she started radiotherapy in February 2015 and has since recovered.

  “I finished my treatment in March of last year and when they said ‘That’s your final treatment, off you go’ I was thinking ‘What now?’

  “When they tell you you’ll see a consultant in three months following the treatment, you think ‘What will I do until then?’ Everything takes over, you get very emotional, anxiety – for me – this is my journey.”

  “Myself and my husband, Declan, got the train up to Roscommon town one day in the weeks after and we were walking past here and I saw the sign for cancer support. We came in and Marian happened to have some free time and she took us in and chatted with us. She then made an appointment for me to come in and have some counselling and get my head around things.”

  Rosie also availed of services such as massage and reflexology and said it was “brilliant” in helping to ease the stress of dealing with cancer.

  Rosie has since been involved in fundraising for Vita House and a support group which meets in Hannon’s Hotel regularly.

  She says that while the body is treated for cancer, the mind is equally important. “They may have taken it from my body but it was still up here,” she said, tapping her head, when explaining post-cancer worries.

‘I could only support her if I was in the right place myself!’

Jeff Perkins moved from England to Ballintubber with his wife, Debbie, in March of this year. Debbie was diagnosed with uterine cancer in May and underwent surgery quite recently. Jeff said that while it was difficult at first, Vita House has helped him to fully support his wife.

  “When Debbie was diagnosed, I quickly realised it was a life-changing moment.

  “It was such a shock; there were no symptoms or anything. I realised that it (Vita House) was open to family members and it was suggested I come here.

  “I was very nervous at first. I sat in the car outside thinking ‘What am I doing? I could be more use at home.’ But I’ve actually found it very useful, all I can do is be there for her and obviously you have to try and keep positive. Sometimes that’s very difficult when inside is turmoil but outside you’re trying to project positivity.”

  Jeff believes that while men find it difficult to talk, it’s extremely important that they open up: “The people here made me realise that I could only support Debbie if I’m in the right place myself and I clearly needed to talk to someone. I don’t think us guys are much good at that, so to have this service is a great help.

  “I felt a bit of a fraud coming here at first, thinking ‘This is Debbie, she’s the one who’s going through all this horrible stuff, there’s nothing wrong with me’.”

  Jeff concluded our chat with a special word of advice for men who were going through a cancer ordeal either first-hand or as support for a family member or friend.

  “As difficult as it is as soon as they come here and as soon as they’re in the door, they’ll realise it’s the right thing for them to do. Yeah, you can go and have a couple of pints with your mates and come away without talking properly, but at the end of the day these people are professional and can really empathise with where you are. In a situation like that, when you have such a big shock, you really need to hear yourself talk about it.”