Learning the ‘tools’ to live with my cancer diagnosis

This week marks Palliative Care Week. Donal Crowley, from Montenotte, talks about how the services of Marymount Hospice have benefitted him as he battles cancer
Learning the ‘tools’ to live with my cancer diagnosis
Donal Crowley.

MY name is Donal Crowley. I am 62 and living in Montenotte, Cork. I am married to Patricia and have three children, Karen, Maria and David. I am also blessed with three grandchildren, Cassie, Alicia and Isabella.

I fell ill on July 3, 2015 and was diagnosed four days later with stage 4 Neuroendocrine Cancer, consisting of numerous tumours in the liver and stomach area.

While my prognosis at the beginning was relatively positive this soon turned to a far more serious situation.

I began my treatment with chemotherapy in September, 2015, which had a negative effect. This was followed in November, 2015, by a lifesaving operation to remove a 20cm tumour from my liver. In February, 2016, I had more surgery to remove 10 tumours from my abdominal area. This was followed by a series of treatments with various drugs to control the cancer and its side effects.

During 2017 I had three surgical embolisations on a new tumour in my liver followed in 2018 with five sessions of targeted radiotherapy on this tumour. I am due back for a scan and consultation in early October, 2018, to see the results of this radiotherapy.

Throughout this period I have been hospitalised on numerous occasions for various problems and side effects. My cancer is still active and I am still on medication but the battle goes on.

Marymount Hospice got involved with me in the very early stage of my diagnosis at a time when I was a physical and emotional wreck. At that time I had cancer but cancer also had me!

Prior to my illness, I was always a very strong, positive and optimistic person whose glass was always half full, but the onset of my cancer kidnapped me emotionally in a way I would not have predicted.

Most people and their families don’t have the ‘tools’ to cope with a sudden catastrophe such as a cancer diagnosis but thankfully there is expertise and help out there and Marymount Hospice and staff helped me at a critical stage of my illness and are still helping me today.

I wouldn’t be here today without the intervention of the doctors, surgeons in the Mercy, the Marymount Hospice and staff and also the love and support of my immediate family who were, and are still with me throughout my illness. Palliative Care to me and to most people is synonymous with death and dying!

The general perception is if you go into Marymount – you won’t come out. Once I experienced Marymount’s counselling and the F A B clinics my attitude changed completely to one that reflected life and living.

I went into Marymount with some trepidation but came out with a completely different outlook on my own health situation and the palliative care system.

I no longer had any foreboding or fear of Marymount but looked forward to my visits and meeting the nurses, staff and fellow patients who were all on a similar journey to my own.

Marymount gave me hope, without gilding the lily so to speak, they didn’t give me false expectations on my prognosis and were quite candid about my particular situation, but they thought me to live for today and they helped me out of a very dark place that I was in at the time, in a most caring and understanding way.

They were almost like an extension of my family. When you are very sick you will try anything to get better and palliative care was one avenue that was thankfully opened for me.

We are all mortal and the only thing that differentiates us is the time and way of our deaths. Marymount can take the fear from that experience.


Palliative Care Week runs from September 9 to 15. The aim of the week is to raise awareness of the difference palliative care can make to patients, carers and families througout the island of Ireland.

Palliative care:

Ensures that a person with a serious illness and progressive condition, regardless of age or condition, can have the best possible quality of life.

Involves the person and those closest to them.

Supports planning for the future.

Maybe appropriate for a number of years, not just weeks and days at the end of life.

Puts the person at teh centre of care whether it is provided at home in a nursing home, hospital or hospice.

Palliative Care focuses on helping people of all ages to live well with an illness that is life limiting, seeking to help them achieve the best quality of life as their illness progresses.

Palliative care involves the management of pain and other symptoms and providing social, emotional and spiritual support. It puts the individual at the centre of every decision, helping them to plan for their future, enabling them to make choices and supporting their families and carers.

Palliative care is for people with advanced cancer but it’s just as important if you are living with advanced heart or lung disease, kidney failure and other conditions such as Motor Neurone disease or dementia.

Palliative care can benefit people who are living with a life limiting illness for a long time as well as people who are in the last days or weeks of their life.

Some people live with their condition for a long time and have extended periods of being well. People can move in and out of palliative care services as their needs change.

The service is provided by a range of health professionals supporting a person whether they are at home, in a nursing home, hospital or hospice.

See www.thepalliativehub.com

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