Peer Support Volunteer Fran – ‘You learn how to listen; how to help’

Sharing a line from a Rocky film or idolising a favourite footballer can often be just as important topics of conversation as discussing diagnoses and treatments, says Irish Cancer Society Peer Support Volunteer Fran McDermott.

Sports-mad Fran can appreciate as much as anyone the need for advice or even just a listening ear when going through cancer, having twice done so himself.

He vividly recalls sitting in hospital desperately questioning what the future would hold for him following a devastating testicular cancer diagnosis in his early 20s, and doing it all over again when needing treatment for thyroid cancer 12 years later.

“I wasn’t sure how it was possible to come through it. It was an obstacle I found hard to comprehend myself,” Fran says.

He focused his energies towards running and cycling as activities that could make a positive contribution towards his recovery, as did gaining insights from others who had been through it all before.

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If you can’t visualise what you’re going to go through you need someone to show you the way.

“When I was in hospital I felt like I was in the dark about how things might pan out. At the time back in 2001 I found reading Lance Armstrong’s book was a massive help in that, but thankfully it’s easier to reach out now, and great to have people who are willing to help out. The cancer community is very strong,” says Fran, who was also able to take inspiration from his own Dad’s cancer survival story.


“I’m a father myself now, and I think it’s rewarding to give back. They say everything happens for a reason, but it’s great to share your experience because it could have worked out very differently for me, but thankfully it didn’t. Throughout the years I was thinking maybe that a lot of things weren’t possible but actually they were, and you want to tell others that.

“Through the training with the Peer Support Volunteering you get to learn how to speak to people and how to listen, and how to help. I learned a good bit from that. What you went through won’t necessarily be exactly the same as the other person, but sharing it can still help.

“Even just chatting about what you’re watching at the moment or your favourite Liverpool player (James Milner in my case!), these things can be every bit as important as talking about cancer.”

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, Cancer Nurseline

For more information

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