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Eoghan O’Leary has organised a charity event, Cycle4Helen, from Malin Head to Mizen Head in memory of his beloved wife Helen who died of cancer aged 32 in 2020. Photography by Eugene McCafferty

Late Helen, 32, ‘made the most of the life she lived’

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THE husband and mother of a Clonlara woman, who died from breast cancer at the age of 32, are “overwhelmed” with fundraising totalling more than €30,000, which has been raised three weeks before the start of a cycle in her memory.

Eoghan O’ Leary from West Cork and his late wife, Helen Guinane from Clonlara were married less than eight months when she was diagnosed with Stage Four Metastatic Breast Cancer in January of 2019 at the age of 30.

Helen did not have any history of cancer in her family before receiving this devastating news.

She fought incredibly hard before she passed away in August of 2020 at the age of 32.

In an interview with The Clare Champion, Eoghan and Helen’s mother, Siobhan said they are “overwhelmed” with all the funds raised to date for Cycle4Helen.

A raffle for JP McManus Pro Am tickets is also generating a lot of funds.

Eoghan will be joined by a group of friends and family who will undertake a 670km fundraising cycle from Malin Head to Mizen Head next month in memory of his beloved wife and friend who was lost to cancer at a young age.

There will be a core group of 12-14 cyclists and a two to three support person team who will cycle from Malin Head to Mizen Head on July 17 to 22 to raise money.

They include a group of mixed ability cyclists, who will be joined along the way for stages by dozens of other cyclists. It is expected the cycle will be stopping off in Clonlara on July 20.
Born in Clonlara, Helen attended St Senan’s National School and Scoil Carmel in Limerick.

In 2006, she went to study Civil Engineering in UCC where she met Eoghan, who hails from near Bantry in West Cork in early 2007.

The couple who were living in the same complex clicked and were married in St Senan’s Church, Clonlara before the wedding reception in the Lakeside Killaloe in May 2018.

After finishing college, Eoghan went to London for two years, while Helen moved to Dublin to work in the Central Bank.

On January 7 2019, Eoghan and Siobhan accompanied Helen for a check up in the Mater Hospital, Dublin after she had noticed a lump in her breast a few months earlier.

Eoghan recalled Helen had a scan and they were told that she had cancer.

Two days later, doctors dropped the “bombshell” that Helen had Stage Four Metastatic Breast Cancer.

“It was devastating. Any bit of hope was pulled from under her with the diagnosis. We are all a bit naive until it comes to our own doorstep. I remember going into the clinic, it was frightening how busy it was with different age profiles of patients,” he said.

Helen received chemotherapy, radiology and other treatment to deal with cancer, which was very aggressive.

Siobhan recalled Helen fought cancer very bravely with great dignity and still maintained her flower garden in her Clontarf dwelling.

On August 27, 2020, Helen passed away in front of all her family in her home, having received palliative care from a St Francis Hospice nurse.

Eoghan recalled Helen was hugely popular.

“She was passionate about Gaelic games. She was heavily involved with St Vincent de Paul in Dublin and helped with their activities on Thursday evenings. She was very active and made time for everyone.”

In 2012, Helen captained the Truagh Clonlara camogie team who won the Munster Junior championship after they had been promoted to senior ranks as there was no Intermediate series that year.

She played for years with the club at underage level and centre back was her regular position in defence.

Siobhan remembered all the good times she had with her daughter when she was well.

“The sky was the limit for Helen. She was full of fun. She was a live wire before her illness. She was a very eventful person. You wouldn’t know who she would arrive home with or where she would be going next.”

“She made the most out of the life she lived. We have to be thankful for the good times as well. She was as tough as nails when she was playing camogie.”

Helen was interested in organisations that worked to try and find a cure for cancer. Her husband and family believe the cycle is their way of expressing their gratitude to those who helped Helen during her illness.

Half of all the funds raised will go to METavivor whose sole focus is in the area of metastatic breast cancer.

Another quarter will go to Breakthrough Cancer Research, Cork, who carry out vital work in the field of cancer research and the remaining quarter will be donated to St Francis Hospice in Dublin.

Eoghan and Siobhan have thanked everyone who has contributed or helped in any way to raise such a huge sum of money already. People can make donations to the Cycle4Helen GOFUNDME page.

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