Thousands of people gathered for the ‘Friends Of Kieran 5K Walk’ at Aghada GAA club in East Cork today to gather funds for his treatment, while a ‘Go Fund Me’ campaign has now raised almost €300,000.
O’Connor, a member of the panel when Cork beat Down to the All-Ireland title in 2010, is battling Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, and had his lower leg amputated in January. Speaking to The Echo before the 5k walk, which he and his wife Sinead led out with their three kids, he said he has been overwhelmed by the level of support since he was told by doctors that the cancer had spread.
“I’m humbled but empowered the last couple of weeks with the support. When my family and friends set up the Go Fund Me page I was completely taken aback with the response. It’s been a huge comfort to me, my family and my extended family,” he said.
“I’m definitely treating the cancer treatment with the same attitude I had to playing football. These days, more and more people are getting cancer and every situation is different but I plan to fight this all the way.
“I have some amazing doctors. I’m listening to them and doing what they are telling me.
“I have my bad days but I am trying to be positive. Seeing all the people out supporting me and my family, this is one of the good days.
“Cancer affects more people in this parish than me and that’s important too.
“The response from the GAA has been phenomenal. We all have our own communities and teams but everyone from all over has gathered here today and that’s incredible,” he added.
His wife Sinead described the reaction from the public as “strengthening”.
“I am emotional but very positive and delighted with the support to see family, friends and the wider extended community," she said.
"It’s strengthening for us going forward and hopefully, good health will come from this and all the positive energy.
“At the moment, Kieran is going through chemotherapy and they are monitoring him and hoping he will respond to that. There is a tough road ahead but we are very hopeful.”
The 39-year-old was diagnosed with the rare form of bone cancer in October 2017, while awaiting the birth of his third child.
Aggressive chemotherapy was followed by an operation that shaved 110mm off a tumour.
The operation went well, but intensive chemotherapy resumed after a month and went on until the end of July 2018.
Kieran was planning to go back to work in December 2018 but now faces more intensive treatment.
His brother Pa O’Connor said the support from the community in Aghada and beyond was “heartwarming”.
“The messages of support are feeding into positivity and hopefully he will come out the other side of this, I believe he will. He’s an unbelievably strong person and he will come out on top in this battle. Every penny that comes in is needed. As a family, we appreciate every bit of support,” he added.
Chairperson of the Cork County Board, and cancer survivor, Tracy Kennedy, also praised the club and community for their efforts in supporting the family.
“When you see an event like this, it really highlights all that is good about the GAA in Cork. There’s great credit due to Kieran’s friends for organising the event. As a cancer survivor myself, I can say that it is a horrible experience for anyone but Kieran is a tough guy and the fact that he is so positive is fantastic,” she added.