Helen Flynn from Co. Galway was diagnosed with Her 2 positive breast cancer in October 2020 aged 44.
The Mum of two had been experiencing chronic fatigue and loss of appetite for about 12 months prior to her diagnosis, but she put that down to trauma and stress as herself and her children had spent two and a half years in Galway’s homeless services. In September 2020 things were looking up for the Flynn family, they had recently secured their own tenancy and her children, Oisin aged 11 and Tom Óg aged 8, who both have autism had been accepted in to a local school with fantastic ASD services.
Helen had noticed a small lump on her breast a few months prior, but because of the pandemic and as she had previously had benign lumps, she put it to the back of her mind. In October, she noticed the lump had grown, so she contacted her GP, who referred her for an urgent triple assessment.
Unfortunately, on the 28th October, Helen received the heart breaking news that she had breast cancer. She says “I felt utterly devastated. We had already been through so much as a family, and I had just began to think that we could move forward as a family, having secured our new tenancy and gotten the boys into a suitable school for their additional needs. I finally felt like we could start healing from everything we had been through. Then my cancer diagnosis came along and it was earth shattering”.
Helen grew up in an orphanage and had only quite recently made contact with her estranged Mother, before she sadly passed away of the same cancer.
As Helen is a lone parent and has no immediate family, she has relied heavily on her local community to provide vital support and care for her and her young children whilst she goes through her cancer treatment. Oisin and Tom Óg are looked after by a foster family when Helen attends chemotherapy appointments and other hospital stays. She says that her local community in Doughiska have been an incredible support to them throughout her illness.
“I am very proud to be a part of this incredible community and have been blown away by the generosity everyone has shown us. Complete strangers has given us such support. I have been lifted and carried by people and I don’t even know their names," she said.
Going through cancer during covid has been extremely distressing for Helen and she says
A cancer diagnosis is a very isolating and terrifying thing, but with the added layer of covid it has been so tough. Cancer has utterly devastated our world, Mum the carer should not get sick and I’m having to cope with the role reversal -my children have had to care for me.
Throughout her treatment, Helen availed of the Irish Cancer Society Volunteer Driver Service, which provides free transport to and from chemotherapy treatment. She says that the additional support has been ‘a huge help’.
At the moment, Helen’s treatment is going well, and her doctors are pleased with her progress. When she completes chemotherapy her oncologist will review her progress and decide upon surgery. She is an exceptionally uplifting and resilient person and comments “even after everything we have been through, we are very positive, we have a lot of hope in our lives, and we are on the way up”.
Helen’s biggest message is: “Listen to your body. If you have anything you are suspicious over, make that appointment today with your doctor. I was too meek and polite and I’m living with it now."
The Irish Cancer Society Support Line is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm for support and advice on any cancer related issue.