CORK Cancer Care Centre is a charity that support women and men who have been directly or indirectly affected by the disease, their carers, family and friends. The centre welcomes everybody and recently Minister for Finance, Michael McGrath paid them a visit.
“He came to see what we’re about,” says CEO Linda Goggin James.
“Minister McGrath knew somebody who availed of the support of the centre and he came to see for it himself. So we gave him the grand tour. He wanted to find out about the support we offer people on a cancer journey, and of course we were eager to find out how he can support us!”
Mother of three Grainne Farren, from Rochestown, knows full well how valuable the support of Cork Cancer Care Centre is when someone is undergoing a cancer journey.
“There is so much more to dealing with cancer than the physical treatments; mental and emotional healing are also vital for recovery. Cork Cancer Care Centre supports people through and beyond the trauma of cancer treatment. This includes people newly diagnosed, undergoing cancer treatment, post cancer treatment, or living with cancer, and their families.
“The charity provides counselling sessions, peer support groups, weekly yoga classes, wig fitting, nutrition and wellbeing advice, holistic treatments such as acupuncture, reiki and massage, and so much more - all free of charge. People are welcome to attend as often and for as long as they need to, no time limit is placed on the mental and emotional recovery that takes place throughout and after cancer treatment.”
Grainne tells me how the centre was first established.
“The centre’s founder, the late Ann Dowley Spillane, started a monthly meeting of a group called The Girls’ Club in 2011 where women supported each other through the cancer journey. By 2012, there were so many women seeking support that Ann moved the group to the centre’s current location in St Paul’s Avenue, and in 2017 as increasing numbers of both men and women sought support, it’s name changed to Cork Cancer Care Centre.”
Grainne is very familiar with the centre and the support it offers.
“The centre is a pioneer in the ever-changing suite of programmes it offers,” she says.
“it runs the only free wig bank in Ireland, accepting donations of wigs and providing wigs and fittings to those who need them. It is currently running a Cancer Recovery and Transformational Coaching programme and is due to hold Mindful Movement sessions in a local labyrinth in the coming weeks.
“Through its Blankets of Hope programme, it also delivers blankets, which are lovingly crocheted and knitted by volunteer groups across Cork to patients in oncology and radiology units in a number of hospitals around Munster.
In 2022 alone, the centre provided support for over 200 cancer patients and their families, provided 483 counselling sessions, 523 holistic therapy sessions, 74 wigs and regular weekly peer support groups and yoga classes throughout the year, all free of charge. During that year it also donated nearly 2,000 blankets to cancer patients in hospitals across Cork and Kerry.”
There is a lot of people on board to support cancer patients and their families.
“The centre’s therapists are all volunteers, their time and support is given generously and willingly,” says Grainne.
“There are only two paid staff in the centre and none of the directors are paid. Linda Goggin James, CEO, seamlessly pulls it all together, coordinating the running of the centre, caring about each individual that walks through the door, and tirelessly engaging in fundraising efforts to cover the centre’s running costs. All money raised goes into supporting the community of Cork and surrounding areas.”
How did Grainne come across the centre?
“I first came across the Cancer Care Centre in March, 2022 while undergoing treatment for breast cancer,” she says.
She was a bit daunted at the start.
“Walking into the centre for the first time was a bit nerve-wracking; having cancer felt surreal and seeking cancer support services was something I never thought I would have to do, especially in my 40s. However, Linda, the centre’s CEO put me at ease straight away and the lovely bright open space felt warm, welcoming and inviting. I knew immediately I had come to the right place,” says Grainne.
A cancer journey is never an easy one.
“My cancer treatment was difficult and prolonged. I had four months of chemotherapy, two surgeries, three weeks of radiotherapy, and an additional four months of preventative treatment spanning a full year.
“Throughout it all, thanks to Cork Cancer Care Centre, I have had an amazing journey of support, discovery and self-care,” says Grainne.
“I have had holistic treatments, counselling sessions with a trained psychologist, yoga classes and supportive weekly chat sessions with my fellow cancer warriors.
“Even though I was blessed with amazing support from my husband, my young children, my family and friends, no-one quite understands what the cancer journey is like unless they have walked that road themselves.
“Cork Cancer Care Centre provides another level of understanding and support, a place where people on the journey can talk openly about their feelings and experiences, get and give support and start to piece themselves back together after the physical, emotional, and mental devastation that comes with a cancer diagnosis.”
People on a cancer journey are vulnerable.
“People arrive at Cork Cancer Care Centre lost, afraid and sometimes feeling alone, and over time they visibly grow stronger, calmer, more resilient, more accepting of their own personal journey, and most importantly they become part of a very important network,” says Grainne.
Things take on a life of their own.
“Friendships are formed, wounds are healed, laughter is made, and the word ‘cancer’ is normalised. Everyone is welcome and the support is genuine, heartfelt and unlimited. The centre helps people to realise that surviving cancer need not be the end of an awful story but the beginning of a whole new exciting one, as they learn to embrace the new version of their post-cancer, or living with cancer, selves.”
Grainne is a fantastic ambassador for the centre.
“When I was asked to become an Ambassador for the centre late last year, I was humbled and honoured to be associated with this amazing charity that supports people of Cork and surrounding areas through the toughest times of their lives,” says Grainne.