Deirdre Staunton lives in Sligo and says she has always been a very active person “I suppose in the last fifteen years while trying to regain my youth, I became even more active than ever before.”
Deirdre regularly went for long walks, runs and even hill-climbing but soon after Covid hit she began to notice a difference in her breathing “I was working in Sligo University Hospital and wearing a mask all the time, so initially I put my shortness of breath down to that. I also had asthma since I was a child so I factored this in too.”
Then in August 2020 Deirdre began noticing a change in her running capabilities “It was taking me much longer to complete a 5KM run and I would be feeling extremely out of breath afterwards, which wasn’t normal for me. I was also more fatigued than usual.” She recalls.
"I felt like I could feel all the support around me in the community. People want to help you."
In February of 2021 Deirdre went to see her GP and was booked in for pulmonary function tests and a chest x-ray “That evening after more investigations I was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was my 52nd birthday. I was totally shocked, only two days earlier I had climbed a mountain with my family for St. Patricks Day.”
As a result of progressions within cancer research, consultants are now able to identify the type of lung cancer a person may have from their tumour markers. Following this analysis, Deirdre was put on a treatment plan of daily oral targeted therapy.
In May 2022 however, Deirdre suffered a stroke “This has slowed me down considerably, at the moment I cannot walk for longer than about ten minutes twice a day.”
Despite these challenges when Deirdre saw an advert online for the Marathon in a Month fundraiser, she was excited to be involved “My son held a bake sale on Daffodil Day and raised over €1,000 so I thought this was something I could get involved with. I typically did a big run in August every year, so traditionally July was always dedicated to training. Even if we were abroad I would get up at 6am before it got too hot and run 10KM.
I thought to myself, okay there are 31 days in July and I have 42KMS to complete. So I am slowly increasing my speed each day and I hope to get it finished by the end of the month. My friends and family have been taking part in the ten minute walks with me each day. I joke that instead of ‘Climb with Charlie’, my version is ‘Walk with Deirdre’!” or as a friend suggested recently “Dawdle with Deirdre” She laughs.
On reflecting on her own experience, Deirdre offers some advice to others “When I was first diagnosed I wasn’t telling many other people about my cancer. Eventually however, more and more people began to find out about my diagnosis. Initially it bothered me but then I realised that it was a positive thing that other people knew, I felt like I could feel all the support around me in the community. People want to help you.
In my spare time I have been writing my own book, it is called ‘…but ya look great’. I used get quite defensive when people would tell me I look great, on the inside I felt so sick but I now I am in a better place with it all. I now thank them for saying it, and accept the lovely compliment I have been given.”
For more information on Marathon in a Month, kindly supported by ALDI Ireland, visit: https://marathoninamonth.cancer.ie/
Contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line
If you have worries or concerns about cancer, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.
Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.00pm
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