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The McGrath family, Willie, Donna and Mary, founding members of the West Clare Cancer Centre in Kilkee. Photograph by Eugene McCafferty

New day dawns for West Clare Cancer Centre


THE Kilkee based West Clare Cancer Centre has started a new chapter by opening the doors on its renovated Corry Street drop-in centre.
The McGrath family, who run the charity, hosted an open day event at their cottage base on Friday of last week, and welcomed members of the public in to explore the new state-of-the-art centre and learn more about the treatments and supportive services offered there.
Co-founder of the charity, Mary McGrath told The Clare Champion she and her family hope they are a community for people who are undergoing treatment for cancer.
“From the start, we are here for anybody that is anxious about anything really. They can make contact with the centre, and we will give them the information as to what we know is available to them,” she said.
“The whole of West Clare is now using this service which wasn’t always there. The reason we are getting the support we are getting is because the money is staying locally.
“When someone is diagnosed or whatever issue they have, we meet them here. A lot of our services are complimentary. We were the first operation transformation.
We started the marathon and the first year there was only so many, and then people kept coming out.
“It started a movement, and we are going on to our 27th year now.”
Donna McGrath said her mother Mary and father Willie have brought the charity on so far since they established it in 1998, and now she is trying to help her parents by bringing it more online. As well as looking after the technical side of things, Donna promotes the charity and works with the counselling services.
The popular West Clare charity raises funds to support people in the region who are undergoing cancer treatment. One of the people it has assisted is Mary O’ Dwyer from Mullagh who recently went through treatment for breast cancer.
“I got cancer last September, breast cancer, and I had a lump removed in October and I started treatment on December 14, the chemo,” she said.
“My daughter told me about this centre here, and I came here and met Mary and Donna. I signed my name to the form and I started my chemo, and every morning Pat Lysaght who works as a taxi driver for here came and collected me, and was very good and brought me to Limerick.
“When I’d finish my treatment, I’d ring him and he was waiting outside. It was a marvellous service.”
Ms O’Dwyer’s husband is aged his late 70s and whilst he was willing and able to drive her to hospital at Limerick, she found the car she travelled in comfortable and all the people she was dealing with pleasant.
The taxi service provided by West Clare Cancer Centre was also especially helpful for early morning appointments at Limerick.
She was “very thankful” for the service, she said.
The other positive with the centre is that if people undergoing treatment are feeling down, they can drop in for the chat.
“It was all about the support, and they were great,” she Ms O’Dwyer.
Office administrator, Niamh O’Rourke is almost a year working at the centre. Over the phone, she organises the taxis as well as the counselling for patients referring them on for counselling with therapists around the county.
“As a typical job as it may seem, it is so rewarding at the same time,” she said.
“You get to help so many people and even though they are going through a really hard battle and a hard journey.
“You are the voice at the end of the phone, that you make them feel better because we are not emotionally connected so if there are things that they may not be able to say to their family, we don’t mind. That is what we are here for. Being a listening ear and saying it is okay to feel like that. It is really rewarding.
“My own sister passed away from cancer 15 years ago and the service were brilliant to her, and just being able to work here now, I get it, I have the empathy, I have the understanding of how the person is feeling on the other end of the phone.
“We have so many people coming through the door, they could be fine coming in or they could be bawling crying, and nobody has the answers.
“Just be a support and let them know that we are here for anytime they need to talk. It is quite rewarding and nice because you are helping someone, you may never meet them but you are helping them.”
The Corry Lane base which is a cottage by the sea was bequeathed by Bernie Gibson to the charity some years ago. Mary McGrath and Bernie had built up a friendship through a kennel business Mary ran some years ago, and Bernie’s legacy was instrumental in helping the charity along. Work on bringing the cottage building up to a modern standard commenced in October 2023 and was completed earlier this month. Their primary fundraising event is the West Clare Mini Marathon which is held every January and is now in its 26th year. The McGraths hope the work of the charity will continue into the future under Donna’s stewardship, and the psychology degree student will bring her expertise in the area to the charity’s counselling services.
The registered charity provides its services free of charge to cancer patients. The centre provides a full-time taxi service to and from appointments, professional counselling, palliative aids, pilgrimage fund-raising and complementary therapies. Covering all of West Clare, the charity says all donations are to assist cancer patients and their families in time of need, and monies raised remain in the region. West Clare Cancer Centre’s drop-in base at Corry Lane is open from Monday to Friday, 11am to 2pm. The groups committee includes Claire Haugh, Helen Cunningham, Mary Stanford, Margaret Keane, John O’Connell, Mary T McInerney, Patrick Gavin, Eilish Lillis and Patricia Hassett.

Sharon Dolan D'Arcy

Sharon Dolan D'Arcy is originally from Ennis. Her work as a print journalist has appeared in a number of regional publications. She worked as court reporter at The Sligo Weekender newspaper and is a former editor of The Athenry News and Views. She covers West Clare news.

About Sharon Dolan D'Arcy

Sharon Dolan D'Arcy is originally from Ennis. Her work as a print journalist has appeared in a number of regional publications. She worked as court reporter at The Sligo Weekender newspaper and is a former editor of The Athenry News and Views. She covers West Clare news.

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