Elaine Scully in hospital

'My first night in hospital was the night the lockdown was announced' - Elaine Scully

In March 2020 when we were all facing the fear and uncertainty of the first Covid-19 lockdown, Elaine from Carlow was hearing the words “you have cancer.”


This time last year when we were all facing the fear and uncertainty of the first Covid-19 lockdown, mother-of-two Elaine Scully from Carlow was hearing the words “you have cancer.”

In January 2020, 42-year-old Elaine had begun feeling extremely tired, then in February she started to experience a constant, pulsing headache as well. She also noticed she regularly had bruises she couldn’t explain. In March she had an oral infection. Elaine booked an appointment with her GP to get to the bottom of her ailments. Her GP recommended she urgently attend A&E in Kilkenny. Elaine underwent blood tests in Kilkenny, which revealed the underlying cause of her symptoms. She was shocked to receive a diagnosis for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a fast-growing blood cancer.

“My husband Niall dropped me to A&E in Kilkenny and waited in the carpark, thinking he’d be bringing me home,” recalls Elaine. “I didn’t get to see him or my sons or anyone again for five weeks. I was sent by ambulance the next day to St. James’s Hospital. My first night in James’s was the night the lockdown was announced and everyone was told to stay at home. That was very surreal and upsetting. I felt like I was the only person in the country who had been taken from their home when everyone else was being told to stay there.”

While Elaine was apart from her family, thoughts of her two sons Dylan (26) and Jack (18) brought her strength: “When you hear the words leukemia or cancer you just fear the worst. But I remember my first night in hospital, closing my eyes and thinking how lucky I was - the life I’ve had with my boys and how special they are and the relationship we have. That got me through. Knowing I had so much at home waiting for me definitely gave me strength.”

Elaine Scully video call with family

Elaine’s chemotherapy began within days of her arrival to St James’s Hospital. Her leukemia required numerous rounds of in-patient chemotherapy, which meant long stays in hospital without visitors. 

 “Because of Covid I had to have an isolated room,” Elaine explains. “Normally I would have been allowed to have visitors. Covid made it a lot harder.

“Every single night at 7.00pm I had Facetime calls with my sons and husband. We would chat and laugh and play games. Some nights I’d be exhausted and might only last a couple of minutes.

“Whenever I spoke to my sons they’d try to be upbeat and positive. They never voiced a fear. Their reaction to my leukemia was, ‘Mam is going to get through this. She can do it.’” 

Elaine’s final chemotherapy was last October, and she was able to go home at last. 26-year-old Dylan moved back to the family home too to spend more time with his Mam, which Elaine says meant the world to her. Her other son Jack surprised her with a heartfelt letter: “The letter just floored me. It’s not often that a teenage boy will show you his sensitive side. But he wrote a lovely note saying that watching how strong I was helped him to be strong. That he couldn’t have gotten through it without seeing how I was dealing with it. I couldn’t believe it. To think of doing it and to put those words together was just so special.”

Elaine is waiting for her platelets to fully recover, but she says other than that she’s doing fine now: “Being at home and being able to hug my husband and my sons is amazing.”

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“People always comment that I’m so strong, but I just do what I have to do. And I want other people to know that they can do it too. All you have to do is get through today.”

Elaine Scully
Elaine Scully and family
Become a blood donor

Elaine is grateful to everyone who donates blood and urges others to donate blood by visiting GiveBlood.ie: “At the start I was thinking what if people don’t go out and give blood, what if people were afraid because of Covid? The amount of blood transfusions I got on a weekly basis was shocking and I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Share your story

If you would like to share your story you can contact us at tellus@irishcancer.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

Roz, a cancer nurse

For more information

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1800 200 700

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