Joan Fitzgerald

Joan was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. A nurse in Crumlin, she knew something was niggling at her and she kept putting it off. She was tired, had a cough and had lost quite a bit of weight. During one of her shifts she was leaning over a cot and got very dizzy and knew she needed to get whatever it was sorted. She says her doctor took one look at her and sent her straight to the Hermitage Clinic for further tests. She had a thymona tumour in her chest with obstruction around her superior vena cava, one of the major blood vessels from her heart. Joan was referred on to St. James’s and stayed there while her doctor figured out a plan for her. She said she knew how serious it was when all of the medical team were stunned that she was still walking around, going about her everyday life. Surgery wasn’t an option so she started chemotherapy. After her treatment she was booked in for surgery. Driving home from her scan she looked at her boyfriend Gary and said, let’s get married. And they did. Her family took on the challenge and her wedding was organised in just two weeks!

Unfortunately the surgery wasn’t successful and the tumour was inoperable which was a big blow to her. Joan went on to have CT scans every three months and had a further three rounds of chemotherapy when her tumour had begun to grow again. In June 2020, Joan was kayaking and felt a lump under her collar bone. She went back to her consultant and was diagnosed with the same rare type of tumour, but as a secondary cancer.

Joan Fitzgerald, Kildare

Joan is still monitored very closely every three months but has beaten the odds. Back in July 2015 she was told that she might not see Christmas yet here she is over five years later telling her story. And she is about to celebrate five years married to her husband Gary this year. Unfortunately her dream of having children was crushed the day of diagnosis due to it being very high risk for her.

At the moment, Joan says she is feeling good, has more energy and wants to use this story to urge people not to put anything off. If there is something niggling you, or on your mind, get it checked. She says she was always the one encouraging her friends to get checked out, get their smear or talk to their doctor yet when it was her, she didn’t go as quickly as she should have. She wonders if things might have been different if she did.

Joan says she benefitted hugely from the Irish Cancer Society Daffodil Centres and from her local cancer support centres. She says it was really good to be able to talk freely about her fears and worries, things she might not want to say to her family. She is taking part in the campaign because she believes everyone should take the offer of the excellent screening programmes available, as well as being aware of any changes in their body, and go get checked out if they need to. Joan thinks we need to look after ourselves better as early diagnosis is important for better outcomes.

Contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line

The Irish Cancer Society Support Line is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm for support and advice on any cancer related issue.