A FORMER councillor and cancer patient extended gratitude to his community for taking over election duties following a devastating and unexpected admission to the isolation unit of Cork University Hospital.
Despite hopes of making it to the count last weekend, the Cork City North West Independent candidate Kevin Conway remains in the hospital bed where he co-ordinated his political campaign.
After a disappointing weekend in the vote, Mr Conway has still promised to honour previous requests from constituents.
Blarney-based Mr Conway had been preparing for stem cell treatment relating to multiple myeloma — a condition causing cancer in the bone marrow — before a diagnosis of sepsis left his life hanging in the balance last September.
He has been in the isolation unit in CUH in recent weeks. Rather than bowing down to his illness over the last few weeks, he immersed himself into political duties and dealt with constituents’ issues from the isolation unit of Cork University Hospital.
He thanked his neighbours and friends in Blarney, who set out to mount a campaign on his behalf.
“I knew I was heading for a transplant [bone marrow]. However, I still believed there would be enough time to mount a campaign,” he said.
“Then they did a PET scan and found some lesions on my spine. I was admitted straight away for treatment. Without their support, I would never have been able to do any of this.
“It was my friends and family who formed my campaign party. They are a great indicator of what happens when a community comes together.
“I might have been on cancer treatment for five years, but in other ways, I’ve been very lucky. In the last six months, I haven’t been very well and this limited my capability to do anything. I have always been blessed with great neighbours but it’s still difficult to believe that they came together to do this for me. I’ll be indebted to them for an eternity.”
Now that his campaign has come to an end, Mr Conway is building up his strength in the hope that he might one day be eligible for another transplant.
“I’m sitting here waiting for my white blood cells to get to a level where they can decide if I need more chemo or whether I should go forward for a transplant,” he explained.
“Even though I’m in isolation I still feel healthy and can work away, but people can appreciate my situation. I have already been in isolation for over a month and am not sure how much longer I will be here.”
He has vowed to make health a priority adding: “My illness contributed to my difficulties but I ploughed on as hard and fast as I could. Eventually, I have to come to the realisation that health has to be my priority.
“I won’t be running around like a headless chicken anymore. My health will come first and everything else is a bonus. Sadly, for 40 years of my life, it was the other way around.”
Mr Conway said that friends and neighbours have contributed to his strength.
“My family have been in the Blarney area for four generations and a lot of my neighbours are the same,” he said. “We have a great relationship with them.
“I was astounded by the numbers that came to canvass for me and how many hours were put in. They told me that they were only returning what I had already given to the community. Many of the people involved have known me since I was a child. They know what work I’ve done locally and that’s why they came out.”
Despite not being re-elected, he still described the campaign as a positive experience.
“I’m very pragmatic about these things,” he said.
“The people have spoken and I respect that. However, this just shows what people can achieve when they come together. That’s what community is all about. When you’re inside an isolation unit you have plenty of time to think.
“A lot of people say they could never have imagined me here. This room is only about 10x10. That’s the space I’ve had to move around in for the last five weeks or so. You have to become accustomed to these things as it’s all part of the treatment.”