Olive’s quest for friend diagnosed with cancer

When her friend and fellow mother required treatment for breast cancer, Cork woman Olive O’Sullivan stood up to the plate. She tells CHRIS DUNNE about her fund-raising campaign
Olive’s quest for friend diagnosed with cancer

HERE TO HELP: Olive O’Sullivan (left) and her friend Holly Kennedy. Olive started a GoFundMe campaign for Holly as she has been diagnosed with cancer

WHEN the going gets rough, it is always good to have a friend in your corner that you can call upon. Olive O’Sullivan, a registered nurse from Clonakilty, is a case in point.

Her friend, Holly Kennedy, has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently undergoing a drugs trial with a U.S firm.

Olive has set up a GoFundMe page for her, as money for the young mum, from Lucan, is tight in her time of need.

“The aim is to raise €50,000,” explains Olive “People’s donations will help a young mother’s best attempt at life for herself, her husband and their son.

“Holly is fighting to live as long as possible for her husband Derek, and for their little boy who needs his mum.”

“The mortgage still has to be paid,” adds Olive. “Holly had to give up work to look after her little boy. When Covid-19 hit, Derek’s income dropped dramatically.

“Because Holly has no health insurance, her hospital options are very limited.

“I got involved as I could see that there was some hope of this trial drug being a success story, not only for Holly but for all women,” says Olive.

Friends have rallied round her cause.

“Fashion designer Helen Cody donated one of her creations, a bespoke silk and organza dress to raffle for Holly’s fund,” says Olive.

The raffle raised €2,500 and a delighted Clonakilty woman, Michelle Mockler, won the prize. “I was asked; was it a fix!” says Olive, laughing.

“Lots of people have come on board to support Holly and her family, including high-profile people. I didn’t have any high-profile connections. I’ve never rubbed shoulders with influential people, so I had to wing it!”

“Everybody I reached out to responded with positivity. It quickly became obvious I couldn’t do this alone.”

The Cork woman offers a micro-blading service — a semi-permanent tattoo technique — to cancer sufferers and cancer survivors.

She explains: “When people going through a cancer journey feel isolated and confused, they want to get away from the maze of medical experts, the mass of sick people and feel a little better about themselves.

“Cancer patients want a friendly, listening ear and they need somebody to bring healing hope so that they don’t feel as sick anymore.

“Mothers find eye-brow micro-blading very helpful. Then they don’t look like ‘that person with cancer’.”

Holly, who lives in Lucan, was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast cancer in December, 2016, at the age of 32.

Olive says: “She had a relapse in the summer of 2019 as the aggressive cancer returned, with metastasis now in her liver, lungs, vertebrae, and bones, and a significant tumour around her heart.”

Olive O’Sullivan has been amazed at the response to her fund-raising initiative
Olive O’Sullivan has been amazed at the response to her fund-raising initiative

Holly is on a trial for Leronlimb, which may be a breakthrough for cancer, that was fast-tracked for approval in the USA.

“I wanted to help Holly, with the funds to travel to the USA,” says Olive. “She is under the care of Dr Kennedy in St James’ Hospital, Dublin.

“Derek, Holly’s husband, had to become her main carer. He is a mechanic and his business suffered badly during the pandemic.

“I deal in cancer clients every single day,” says Olive of her micro-blading technique.

“70% of my clients have cancer. I understand the plight and the concerns of people who have been diagnosed with cancer.

“I try and restore some level of wellbeing back in their lives,” she says.

Holly, as part of her healing and being a graphic designer, created a magazine called Happy, giving hope and solace to cancer patients and she distributed the three-monthly magazine free.

Olive says: “Happy is circulated in doctors’ clinics, wig clinics, and hospital waiting rooms, offering lots of wisdom, nutrition and wellness tips so people with cancer can live better lives.

“Holly featured my eye-brow micro-blading service, Browtique, in the first issue of her magazine and as a result my business increased two-fold. I owe her a huge debt.”

Olive is re-paying that debt.

“I wanted to help Holly,” she says. “I had time on my hands as my business temporarily closed on March 10 and it is not due to open until August 10 due to Covid-19.

“As a mother myself, my heart was full of compassion for this new mother who needed to stay alive for her little boy who relies on her.”

“I set up a GoFundMme page. Its aim was to be a massive help with her ongoing treatment expenses and her regular trip to the USA.

“Now the focus is on making Holly’s home life and her family life as wonderful as it can be.”

She hopes her generous gesture to help Holly will help many others suffering with cancer.

“I feel if this trial is successful, the drug will then be available to all women, and most of the women in Ireland if the government approves it,” says Olive.

“Holly will be the cornerstone of getting this drug to Ireland to help our Triple Negative Breast Cancer women and my patients. This chance is all Holly has. It is her only hope.”

Leronlimab is not a miracle cure for Triple Negative Breast Cancer. “It’s a trial,” says Olive. “Hopefully the drug might work some magic.”

Time is often a great healer.

“It is a whole year long trial that Holly embarked upon some weeks ago,” says Olive. “Once she returned home from the USA, the drug company, CytoDyn called to her to say they will Fedex the next supply of the drug to Ireland now they can receive her blood samples.

“So Holly doesn’t have to travel to America now. The drug will travel to her.”

Holly has been on an incredible journey.

“She found a lump in her breast while breast-feeding her baby,” says Olive.

“Holly had a relapse in the summer of 2019 as the aggressive breast cancer returned. It was now in her liver, lungs, vertebrae and bones.

“There was a significant tumour around her heart.

“Holly re-commenced chemotherapy from August, 2019, to March, 2020, and subsequently ceased as it was making no impact on arresting the speed of its spread.

“However, it did shrink the tumour around the heart.”

Holly researched Leronlimab herself. She got tested and scored well for a good response.

“Her oncologist agreed to let Holly accept this trial,” says Olive. “Holly’s tissue was sent to the USA. There was nothing else left to try.”

CytoDyn Pharmaceutical invited her to the USA for the trial just as Covid-19 hit.

“They paid for her initial flight to review her plus the hotel expenses,” says Olive. “Their first consultation, bloods, assessment and eight weeks’ supply of the drug, were covered by CytoDyn. The trial drug will always be free to Holly once she signed up.”

Holly is a trouper.

“She left for this difficult journey in pain,” says Olive, who admires her friend’s courage.

“Lockdown measures were worldwide and also in the USA. Quarantine restrictions were paramount.”

But it was a trip full of hope.

Olive’s unique friendship is on-going.

“Now that Holly doesn’t have travel to the USA for the drug, we now want to re-direct the fund initiative to seeking a consultant in Europe who only deals in Triple Negative Breast Cancer,” says Olive.

“That way she can get her genetic tests done. Each test is between €2,000 and €3,000. Hopefully her home life can be made a little bit more comfortable.”

To donate:gofundme.com/HollysCancerDrugTrialCampaign.

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