Limerick’s calendar girls raise over €67k for new specialist breast cancer unit

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

OVER €67,000 has been raised for the new €2 million symptomatic breast unit planned for the Mid-Western Regional Hospital thanks to the determination of one Limerick woman who has recently fought her way back from a cancer diagnosis.

OVER €67,000 has been raised for the new €2 million symptomatic breast unit planned for the Mid-Western Regional Hospital thanks to the determination of one Limerick woman who has recently fought her way back from a cancer diagnosis.

Alice O’Farrell, Corbally, persuaded the likes of Mayor Maria Byrne, TV’s Emma O’Driscoll and style queen Celia Holman Lee to pose in the Hope Calendar to raise money for the Mid-Western Hospitals Development Trust, who are funding the new unit. After Alice and friend managed to sell over 6,000 calendars, they raised close to €70,000 and a cheque was last week handed over to the trust at a reception hosted by Mayor Byrne at City Hall.

“I never thought I would see the day when myself and Maria would be in a calendar,” Alice said of the publication that has managed to find its way on to a number of garage walls around Limerick.

The idea occurred to Alice after her diagnosis and a number of local businesses supported the venture from the outset.

“We got sponsored for the printing costs and the Crescent Shopping Centre were very good to allow us to sell there over a few days before Christmas. It was being sold in Unicare and O’Sullivans (Pharmacy),” said Alice.

Another local business delighted to support to venture was Imasa boutique on O’Connell Street, which just happens to be run by Alice’s daughter Louise Tsang.

Some years back and long before her mum’s diagnosis, Louise had the idea of running a masquerade ball for cancer services in the Mid-West, an event that was to evolve into one of the social highlights of the year, The Butterfly Ball, which raises thousands for the same cause.

“It’s ironic that it turned out that way. We all know somebody who is affected by cancer but it’s always such a shock when you are suddenly affected yourself,” said Alice.

But she didn’t let this setback affect her in her fundraising drive and all through her chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, Alice was working on selling the Hope Calendar.

“I started working on it just as my treatment was beginning and we have managed to hand over the proceeds a week after I finished radiotherapy,” she said.

“But of course I had loads of help from all the friends I kept annoying to get involved, all the people who took calendars to work and sold them to their colleagues. My partner Martin (Ryan) and his family were of great support. It was Martin who was lugging all the boxes around and delivering them here, there and everywhere because I didn’t have the strength to do it.”

Alice was determined that any money she raised would stay in the Limerick area and who better than the Regional Hospital who helped her through her illness.

“The Hospitals Development Trust is raising €10 million for a new unit that will include not just breast cancer services, but dermatology, CF and stroke. The CF Association have their own drive going on which people in Limerick will hopefully support but I was raising money specifically for the breast unit, which is going to cost around €2 million. These (development) costs are not being met by the HSE but by the development trust and they depend on donations. They have always been generously supported by the JP McManus Pro-Am,” explained Alice.

Alice has nothing but praise for the breast cancer staff at the Regional but the fact that the service’s various elements are so widely dispersed around the hospital campus made it a trial for sick women and their families.

Breast surgeon Shona Tormey has explained the new unit will “bring all services under one roof and added that allowing access efficiency and improved patient care”. And in “an era of dwindling resources” from government, fundraising efforts were all the more appreciated by patients and staff at the breast unit, Dr Tormey said.