THE Quinn family were delighted when baby Éabha arrived four years ago, on April 24, 2019.
“Carol and I were thrilled with her and so were our boys, Calum, 9, and Eoghan, 7,” says dad Colm, who lives just outside Mogeely.
However, six months ago, Éabha was diagnosed with an extremely rare type of brain tumour and is currently undergoing treatment in Crumlin children’s hospital.
Now, the Denny Hennessy Memorial road run this Sunday, April 30, will raise money for her.
Colm tells me about his precious daughter.
“For three and a half years, all was good. Éabha was ahead of her time and as bright as a button. She got on exceptionally well with her brothers and she loved going to playschool.”
It was unusual for the lively little girl to be tired or clingy.
“Then, in November, 2022, we noticed that Éabha wasn’t herself for about three weeks,” says Colm. “She seemed more tired and clingy.
“We didn’t think there was anything out of the ordinary, but on two separate occasions after she finished playschool, she complained of headaches; they were gone again and short-lived, but the tell-tale sign that something was badly amiss was when her left eye turned in towards her nose.
“We took her to the Bons, and because her condition could be viral, Éabha didn’t have an MRI - but she was thoroughly checked out. We went to London for the weekend and she still wasn’t herself.
“On the Tuesday, my wife, Carol, wasn’t happy and she took Éabha to Súil Eile Optometrists in Youghal. They noticed swelling to the nerves in the back of the eyes,” says Colm.
The signs were ominous.
“They contacted the Bons straight away and they didn’t charge us for Éabha’s visit ,which was an indication that things were very wrong.”
Colm remembers where he was when he got the devastating news that his daughter had a brain tumour.
“It was on the morning of Wednesday, December, 7,” he recalls.
“It is still very raw,” says Colm, who is self-employed as an electrician.
“I was doing a job in the parish priest’s house in Killeagh. I downed tools and went straight to the Bons.”
Éabha was as bright as a button.
“She was in the best form,” says Colm. “That made the diagnosis more unbelievable. It didn’t sink in.
“When we were told that the tumour was operable, it still didn’t sink in for a long time.
“The next step for Éabha was to be admitted to Temple Street Hospital. We waited until 6.30 that evening for confirmation of a bed for her. There was no ambulance available, so we hopped in the car and drove to Dublin.”
What was the journey like?
“It was awful,” says Colm. “There is no point in saying otherwise. We were facing into a black hole.”
However, the Quinns’ journey really only started after midnight.
“The walk to the consultant’s office was only a couple of feet, but it seemed like two miles,” says Colm.
“We were shown scans of the tumour and the consultant told us he was extremely confident that it could be completely removed and that there were no issues with surgery.”
And there wasn’t.
“The following day we met with John Cairn’s surgical team and with Dr Taffi, who performed Éabha’s surgery on December 12. She was a lovely woman.
“All went well and they were able to get 100% of the tumour. They warned us recovery could take up to 10 days.”
Éabha bounced back, and was on her way home to east Cork three days after surgery.
Colum remembers the events of December 21 quite clearly.
“We found out the tumour was malignant,” he says. “And if left untreated, the cancer would come back as the type of rare cancer was very aggressive.
“Dr Capra, our oncologist in Crumlin, informed us that this very rare type of cancer, (PCNS-NB), was only classified in 2016. It was new to everybody.”
The situation was new to the Quinns.
“Éabha’s treatment began on January 3 and was to be primarily in Crumlin,” says Colm.
“The protocol was three sessions of low-dose chemotherapy, followed by three sessions of high-dose chemotherapy, and most likely radio-therapy after that, which may take place in Essen, Germany.”
Éabha is a very brave little girl.
“Her stem cell harvesting went well,” says Colm.
“What happens between treatments is difficult because of the after-effects. Éabha is in good form getting the chemotherapy, she sits there. But often, afterwards, she must stay in hospital.
“The sessions of chemotherapy treatment take place in the Mercy Hospital and in Crumlin.
“Éabha was due the fifth session of treatment on her fourth birthday, April 24, in Crumlin. We were told at the start, on December 21, that we were looking at a 50%-60% success rate.
“We don’t lend much weight to that as its only statistics.”
Éabha is a wise little girl.
“She has huge understanding that she needs the medicine to get better,” says Colm.
The girl bounces back quickly.
“There was a break between chemotherapy sessions three and four, and we saw a skip in her step and a glint in her eye after session three.
“Sometimes it’s hard to remember that when she’s down. Éabha is fighting cancer that’s not there; her treatment is preventative in case the cancer comes back.”
Éabha is in good hands.
“Carol hasn’t left her side since December 7,” says Colm. “She is with her all the time. She is submerged into that world. It is far tougher on Carol.
“Her mam, Breda Crowley, and her family are very good to us. I have no routine, but I try to have some kind of routine with the boys, bringing them to GAA and soccer training.
“I’m supporting my lads at work, but I’m not at work properly; I’m at home more,” says Colm.
“My mind isn’t on work and it’s hard to focus.”
He is on the road a lot.
“We can go to the Mercy Hospital if Éabha’s not well,” says Colm.
“And the POONS nurses, Olga and Peg, come to the house to take her bloods.
“Driving to Dublin now for Éabha’s treatment is like a spin to Castlemartyr; I don’t see the distance anymore. Aoibheann’s pink tie charity, which is a national children’s cancer charity, has been very good to us.”
Support is important.
Child-minder Lil is like a third mum to Calum, Eoghan and Éabha.
“She is worth her weight in gold,” says Colm. “She is the kids’ third mum. The kids are as much Lil’s as they are ours.”
The lads in Mogeely Vintage Club are now supporting the Quinn family at this difficult time.
“The club and the local community are extremely supportive,” says Colm. “You don’t feel like you are alone. I’m a club member now for two years.”
The memorial road run on April 30 will be well supported.
“My father, Denny, started field days for charity back in 1999,” says Jim Hennessy, who is a member of the organising committee.
“He raised hundreds of thousands for Midleton Hospital, Aid Cancer Treatment, and Cancer Research. I’m a club member and I was roped in!
“Dad died on May 5, 2018, and the year after his buddies wanted to continue the road run for different charities.
“Colm is next door to me and I went to him with the idea of having the road run for Éabha this year, being aware what was happening,” says Jim.
“He was delighted and everyone at the meeting agreed. The whole village is behind us.
“The ladies will provide refreshments served in the Imokilly Tavern after the road run and there will be spot prizes on the day.
“Many companies have donated money already, so we have a head start,” says Jim.
“The community spirit is alive and well and everybody is putting their shoulder to the wheel.
“Afterwards we’ll have a few pints; we deserve that!”
The rewards will be reaped.
“We hope to raise upwards from €3,000,” says Jim. “Every small bit will help.”
Colm’s optimism is alive and well.
“Our world was completely turned upside down,” says Colm. “But you hear the good stories and there is fierce hope in that.”
Denny Hennessy Memorial road run, 2023, in aid of Éabha Quinn, Sunday, April 30. Registration €20 from 10.30, Dairygold Mogeely, Co Cork. P25 RR55.