'How do you tell children their mam won't be there?': Almost €70k raised in fundraiser for terminally ill woman

"Sarah made the decision to go home and spend her last Christmas with just her children in isolation. She thought shutting the world out and devoting her Christmas to the kids would be best for them in the long run.” 
'How do you tell children their mam won't be there?': Almost €70k raised in fundraiser for terminally ill woman

Pictured is Sarah Dineen, 29, mother of Keela, aged 7, and Ali, 9.

Friends of a terminally ill Cork mother diagnosed with only two weeks to live on December 22, are appealing for donations through an online fundraising campaign.

On Friday, November 18, Sarah Dineen went into the Cork University Hospital with a pain in her left lung, under the impression it was just an ordinary infection.

Sarah, who lives in The Glen in Cork city, was fit and seemingly healthy, and she wasn’t showing too much distress. 

“Doctors suspected it was a pulled muscle,” said the fundraising organiser, Becky Shortland.

X-rays showed some abnormalities, which led to Sarah undergoing CT scans. Doctors found some masses within her chest as well as swollen lymph nodes. 

“The doctors mentioned that cancer was a possibility, but they needed to further investigate. Cancer was the last thing Sarah believed it could be, and definitely not the answer she would have ever of expected at age 29,” said Becky.

However tests all confirmed it was cancer.

“Professor Derek Power, the gastroenterologist, shook Sarah’s world and broke her heart when he told her the worst news possible,” said Becky. “The cancer Sarah had was a very aggressive cancer. She was at Stage 4, and it was incurable. Like Sarah usually does, she carried on, stayed strong and planned to make the most of the time she was going to have.

“The time Sarah was given at this point was 10 short months and the plan was to get home chemotherapy so she could cherish some much-needed quality time with her children.” 

Following radiotherapy, Sarah was left home on December 11 to be with her children and to figure out how to tell her children.

“The question is how do you tell innocent children that their Mam is not always going to be there?” asked Becky. 

Chemotherapy started a week later. Unfortunately, Sarah ended up in the Mercy Hospital on December 20, due to a high temperature and finding it hard to breathe. Sarah had to be put into Isolation after Doctors discovered she caught the influenza A.

The team of doctors met Sarah and took more X-rays and scans on December 21. The cancer had spread much faster and more aggressively than anticipated.

On Thursday, December 22, Sarah was told that she would have two weeks to live, almost exactly four weeks after her suspected pulled muscle.

Sarah was advised to go to Marymount Hospice for palliative care, and end-of-life pain management.

“The gut wrenching words no healthy 29-year-old mother, who had no symptoms of anything five weeks previously, wants to hear. Sarah was strongly advised from a medical position not to go home,” said Becky. “However, Sarah made the decision to go home and spend her last Christmas with just her children in isolation. She thought shutting the world out and devoting her Christmas to the kids would be best for them in the long run.” 

Sarah is now in Marymount Hospice. 

“They really have made so many things possible that Sarah thought wouldn't be. Sarah would love to be able to leave money to the hospice so that other families can continue to receive the same dignity she has, love and support,” said Becky.

Sarah is a single mother of girls Ali, 9, and Keela, aged 7. Sarah lost both her parents at a young age, when she was only nine years old.

“This go fund me was set up to help with Sarah’s funeral costs and maybe a little fund to support the girls to go to college or even just to continue the life lessons she has been giving them by way of travel and explorations, which she would have done is she was able to,” added Becky. 

Her brother-in-law, Scott Hurley, said there is a surreal air to the devastating news. 

“All our lives, Sarah has been the person who was the most calm in every situation. If anything happened, she would be the calm one,” he said. “Visiting her in Marymount, she’s the one making you feel better, rather than you making her feel better. She’s the reassuring one, when we’re the ones who should be reassuring her.” 

Her two girls cannot “truly make sense of it.” 

“There will be a hole there that can never, ever be filled. Her children are strong and I think they get that from her,” said Scott.

Sarah was always a family first person, and central to setting up family occasions. 

“She was the chief organiser for the family. She would be first person to set up anything, even on her wedding day. She was on the phone making her funeral arrangements earlier and I don’t know how she can process it. She’s the strongest person I will ever know,” said Scott.

So far, over €66,000 has been raised out of a target of €70,000. Donations can be made online here.

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