AN ENNIS teacher, who suffered from breast cancer five years ago, is asking everyone to ‘Ink it Pink’ in October, to honour the memory of those who have died from the disease.
Carmel Kelleher also wants everyone to show their support for the women, and increasingly for the men, who are currently receiving treatment for breast cancer and for those who have survived, with a small Pink Ribbon tattoo.
Carmel, who had breast cancer in May 2009, had her own wrist tattooed with a pink ribbon in June this year, on the day a close friend died from the disease.
“I’ve lost three friends this year to breast cancer. Monica Gallagher came to see me when I was ill myself. Everybody knew Monica, who died recently. Kathleen McGrath, who was also a former teacher and lived out in Scariff, Kathleen was a great friend of mine going back years. Another friend of mine, Claire Clune, a teacher in Caherdavin, died in June, that was the day I got my tattoo,” Carmel explained.
“They would have been women who inspired and nurtured me when I became ill myself, and took me under their wing. I’m a survivor for five years now and I know lots of women who are going through it right now,” the Gaelscoil Mhichíl Cíosóig teacher said.
On the day that her friend Claire died, Carmel was passing the Classic Craft tattoo parlour on Parnell Street and “a tattoo kind of came into my head”.
“Then I thought, no, but I walked in and I talked to Dave Donnellan and I told him what was going round in my head. He was really nice and very approachable. He said it was very common and people do that all the time so I thought, why not, and asked him if he had a slot at the time.”
Dave told her he might be able to do the tattoo later that evening, which gave Carmel time to think about it.
“He had my number and I thought, if he rings me it’s destiny and if he doesn’t, sure I won’t bother. He did ring me and I did think about not going but I went and I said I’d like a discreet pink ribbon tattoo on the inside of my wrist.”
“I did it and it was slightly uncomfortable but it didn’t hurt,” she said.
Since her own brush with the often fatal disease, Carmel has been fundraising for cancer services through the Siúl Linn sponsored walk at Christmas. She wanted to do something for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
“I’ve alway seen the Pink Run and the Pink this and the Pink that, so I thought why not ask people to get a tattoo. I know it’s a bit crazy and when I thought about it first I said this won’t work at all. But then I said, sure if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
“The reason I thought about it was tattoos are no longer taboo and a lot of people get them now. My pink ribbon tattoo is tiny and it’s discreet and there’s absolutely no pressure on anyone to do it, if you don’t want to,” Carmel said.
“The reason I did it is simple. It’s the story of my life, but it’s also in honour and memory of those who died, for those who have been recently diagnosed and for the survivors as well, of course, because it’s not always a fatalistic story.
“It’s a message of support for people who may get breast cancer in the future, both women and men as well now. Men get breast cancer and people don’t realise that. It’s across all generations, mothers, grandmothers and sisters and sisters-in-law. This is support.”
Carmel asked Dave Donnellan if he would be interested in a campaign for breast cancer awareness and he agreed to the Ink it Pink campaign.
The cost of the Pink Ribbon tattoo is €30, with €20 going to Clare Cancer Support in Kilnamona, a wonderfully supportive centre whose drop-in service Carmel found amazing.
“We discussed all the details and designed the posters, put them up on Facebook, hung some posters around town. I put some donation tins, one in Monument Hair Salon – they’re great for promoting things like tattoos, especially to the younger generation and it appeals greatly to them – and another in Classic Craft. Facebook has been fantastic too. I drop in and out to Dave and you know, if it works, great, if it doesn’t, sure even if its a couple of hundred euro, it’s something; it’s something that won’t be repeated, a once-off”.
To take part in the Ink it Pink campaign, contact Dave Donnellan at Classic Craft, Ivy House, Barrack Street or call him at 087 2720680.