IT is rare to meet your soul mate so young, but when Noreen Cremin met Teddy Daly from Donoughmore, at 17, she knew that they were destined to be together forever.
“He was the love of my life,” says Noreen, from Bweeng, near Mallow.
“I was 28 when we got married and we were really happy together. Teddy was just a great guy. There wasn’t a bad bone in Teddy’s body. He was very caring, easy going, and handsome inside and out. We had a great life together. We thought that we’d grow old together.”
A couple, in love with life, and with each other, never envisaged that their happiness would be stolen away before their 10th wedding anniversary. The culprit? Pancreatic cancer, known as the ‘silent killer’, claimed the young man’s life in April 2016. He was aged just 43.
“We never gave up hope,” says Noreen. “When Teddy was diagnosed quite late and time was running out; we never gave up hope. We would have gone to the moon and back to have more time together.”
Tragically, Teddy lost his short fight for life nine months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Noreen, honouring her husband’s spirit, has not given up the fight.
“When Teddy died, I got through the awful despair with the help of my family, friends and counselling,” she says.
“Even though I was in the throes of grief; I still believed that there was something that I could do for others who find themselves in the awful situation that we did.”
Noreen was encouraged by the huge support of her nearest and dearest and the community. So she literally took a cue from her brave husband and she climbed a mountain.
“You have all these emotions, sadness, heart-ache and an element of anger,” says Noreen. “I was told to throw stones in the water, or go and try to climb a mountain.”
She chose the latter. Teddy urged her to the top of the mountain, all 721 metres of it.
“I feel Teddy’s presence every day. He never left me,” says Noreen. “He keeps me going. He is always close to my heart. So with my energy, and a few friends, I climbed Slievenamon in November, 2016.”
What was that like?
“It was gorgeous,” says Noreen. “It felt so peaceful. The view from the top was magnificent, covered in snow.”
She had climbed the mountain once and came down the other side. Feeling the push of a tiny piece of the planet beneath her feet, Noreen felt the ebb and flow of immense inspiration from Teddy. She could do it again.
“The Teddy Daly Memorial Climb raised in excess of €32,000 for Breakthrough Cancer Research last year,” says Noreen “I decided to do it again this year in aid of cancer research. The memorial climb will become an annual event.
“The money goes straight to Breakthrough Cancer Research, pancreatic cancer research. I expected 100 people to turn up, 550 arrived! The support was overwhelming.”
Others, who find themselves amid the pain and despair of a cancer diagnosis, will benefit.
“There is no cure for pancreatic cancer,” says Noreen. “But hopefully, with more research, people can buy a bit of time. Teddy was given three weeks to five years. He never gave up hope. Ever. He died nine months after being diagnosed.”
This year the Teddy Daly Memorial Climb takes place on Sunday, April 22 at 12pm. Everyone is welcome.
Noreen said: “Everyone has their own mountain to climb. People who did it found the memorial climb so positive. The feedback really encouraged us to organise it again this year. They were so happy. And the Teddy Daly Memorial Climb is something positive I can do for others who have to cope, feeling the helplessness that we did. Pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest ones, coming with a death sentence.”
Teddy fell sick in October 2014. The self-employed, lively, sporty, man, had never been sick in 20 years.
“Teddy experienced a lot of pain throughout that Christmas period and into the middle of the New Year,” says Noreen.
“He had a rash on his back, he was diagnosed with shingles, hiatus hernia and acid reflux.
“But Teddy was struggling to eat and drink,”adds Noreen.
“He had no energy, which was unlike him. He travelled a lot with work. He never complained. But he found it hard to do things and he had to cancel work trips because he just wasn’t able.”
Noreen, who was working full-time, was worried about her husband.
“We had been told that he had a hernia, there were no medications for it and no cure. Teddy had to live with it. But his quality of life was totally lessened with the pain.”
A holiday to Greece in June didn’t improve things.
“Within a week he was yellow. We knew there was something seriously wrong when he was sent to hospital in Cork.”
The couple’s fears were realised when Teddy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 515 people in Ireland are diagnosed with it every year. Across Europe, the five year survival rate is less than one person in 20.
The journey nobody wants to take began for Teddy and Noreen.
“Teddy was in and out for chemotherapy,” say Noreen.
“He was very sick in the first six months. Then after the shock, things levelled off. The treatment stopped in September. He was free of treatment in October and November.”
But the cancer had only stalled temporarily.
“We got the news in December that the cancer had spread,” says Noreen.
“He underwent more chemotherapy. When an infection set in; he faded away.”
Teddy fought to the bitter end.
“He never felt he was dying,” says Noreen. “He never contemplated not coming home.
“Teddy was sure that some treatment would help him. It was not to be.”
Noreen is still reeling from the shock and the trauma of losing her beloved husband.
“I’m still dealing with it,” she says. “I’ll never get over it. I still can’t believe he’s not here. He was the baby brother of his family. He lost both his parents to cancer.”
Noreen had a giant mountain to climb, in dealing with the grief that came with losing her husband.
“Without family, friends and counselling; where would I be? They are so important. My parents and my sister are always there for me,” says Noreen.
“I am so grateful for the small things and the big things that gives you life. It is two years down the road, but it is still one day at a time.”
Noreen, like Teddy, doesn’t give up easily.
“Climbing the mountain was the only thing I could do for Breakthrough Cancer,” says Noreen.
“The research in the Breakthrough Cancer labs at UCC headed by Dr Pat Forde, is on-going and some day it will give others the precious time with loved ones who have cancer that they are desperate for. Teddy and I wished that there was something there to give us more time, some treatment, a better quality of life.”
Noreen says time is of the essence when dealing with pancreatic cancer.
“Recognising the symptoms is so important,” says Noreen. “Time is precious. Diagnosis sooner, rather than later, is essential.”
Noreen is encouraging people to get their hiking boots on next month. The climb up Slievenamon in Clonmel is accessible for everyone. She hopes to surpass the €32,000 raised last year for cancer research.
“It is a great family day out,” says Noreen. “The atmosphere is brilliant. The people are brilliant Teddy’s brother, Liam, Siobhan Healy, his sister, and our friend, Maria Cafferkey, helped pull it all together. They are amazing people and I will always be grateful for their support. The first 15 minutes seem the hardest, but then it flattens out and it gets easier.”
Teddy’s positivity, right to the end, is infectious and it is the family’s hope that the ribbon of purple T-shirts that will weave their way through the Tipperary Mountain will give people a sliver of hope for the future.
“Research for cancer drew me to the mountain,” says Noreen. “It was something I could do. Hopefully something good will come out of it. Teddy’s memory will never die. That’s what matters. And I know Teddy would want more research done to help others in the same situation that we were in.”
HOW TO GET INVOLVED IN THE TEDDY DALY MEMORIAL CLIMB
To join the Slievenamon climb on Sunday, April 22, email:firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 021-4226655. See www.breakthroughcancerresearch.ie/events/2018-teddy- daly- memorial-climb/ for more.
Registration fee is €20 each. For a family, including two children, two adults, registration is €40.
ABOUT PANCREATIC CANCER
A total of 515 people are diagnosed each year in Ireland with pancreatic cancer, and 483 people pass away because pancreatic cancer is a poor prognosis which has a low five year survival rate of 8.2%.
Symptoms to look out for include:
Painless jaundice, yellow skin or eyes.
Significant or unexplained weight loss.
New onset of persistent abdominal discomfort.
Persistent dyspepsia or indigestion not alleviated by medication.
Loss of appetite or quickly feeling full when eating.
Unexplained back pain, often eased by sitting upright.
Breakthrough cancer and info
ABOUT BREAKTHROUGH CANCER
Breakthrough Cancer Research is an Irish cancer charity focused on research and education and is particularly focused on cancers with poor prognosis like ovarian, malignant melanoma, pancreatic and oesophageal.
Breakthrough Cancer facilitates excellent research in bringing assistants and clinicians together to collaborate with the aim of discovering and developing new effective treatments for patients in Ireland, Europe and Internationally.
For more see www.breakthroughcancerresearch.ie