I wept with emotion at start line of the mini marathon

A woman who has dedicated her life to cancer research — a disease which claimed her beloved mother — will take part in The Echo Virtual Women’s Mini Marathon in Cork this weekend, in her memory, writes CHRIS DUNNE
I wept with emotion at start line of the mini marathon

Frances Drummond and her daughter Eve and husband John, doing the mini marathon in previous years.

WHEN Frances Drummond takes on The Echo Virtual Women’s Mini Marathon on Sunday September 20, she knows her late mother, Philippine, will be beside her, in spirit.

“My mother was a wonderful woman,” says Frances, who is taking part in this year’s mini marathon in aid of Breakthrough Cancer Research, along with her daughter, Eve.

“She was a nurturer, a carer; a great lady with great warmth who looked after others but never herself,” said Frances, recalling her mother.

“She put caring for others before caring for herself. My brother, who suffers from a genetic disease, requires specialist care and she put every bit of energy into that.

“My mother somehow felt she wasn’t worthy of coming first, that she wasn’t important. She was last on the list.”

Sadly, Philippine, from Ballyshannon, Donegal, died age 62 from of a very rare cancer, cholansiocarcinoma, cancer of the gall bladder and bile duct.

“It is so rare that only .7% of people get this form of cancer,” says Frances.

“My mother’s cancer, so close to the liver, had metastasized when she was diagnosed.

“Mum was fit, she wasn’t overweight; she walked everywhere,” Frances said.

She had passion in life too.

Philippine Drummond with her grand-daughter Eve
Philippine Drummond with her grand-daughter Eve

“Her caring role was everything to her. She made a difference to other people’s lives,” her daughter added.

She put others first.

“Mum delayed going to the doctor,” says Frances.

“She suffered from a painless jaundice and her eyes went yellow. The risk factor of her cancer was not known.”

Frances who studied and worked in UCC, did her PhD on the impact cancer has on patients and their families, health services, and patient outcome following research.

Frances now works for Breakthrough Cancer Research, Cork, an Irish medical research charity focused on cancer.

“We work to significantly impact the number of children and adults who can survive this disease,” says Frances.

“We are particularly focused on improving outcomes for those cancers which are poorly served by current treatment options.”

Frances knows only too well the fall-out from losing loved ones.

“My dad, who only passed away six weeks ago, suffered from arthritis most of his life. Losing him is still very raw. I wouldn’t wish losing a loved one during Covid-19 on my worst enemy,” says Frances.

“It was a terrible experience. We couldn’t do what the Irish do so well, saying goodbye.

“Dad outlived my mother by six years, even though he was 10 years older than her. They did everything together.”

They were young at heart.

“They loved walking the beach together,” says Frances.

“Mum and dad were dedicated to each other. They enjoyed the simple pleasures of life.”

Frances is dedicated to cancer research.

“After completing my studies in UCC, I dedicated my career to cancer research and fundraising,” says Frances.

“I took part in a marathon for Sligo Hospital oncology unit, Arc House and Breakthrough Cancer.

“I’ve done the Women’s Echo Mini-Marathon every year now for 11 years. It is important to support these wonderful charities.”

Frances does important work.

“I left UCC last year and I joined Breakthrough Cancer Research working on advancing poor prognosis cancers,” says Frances.

“There is little research on pancreatic and esophageal cancers. Pancreatic cancer is often difficult to diagnose.

“The general five year survival rate for people with pancreatic and esophageal cancers is only 10%.”

There is light at the end of the tunnel for people crying out in the dark.

“ARC House services, cancer centres, and Breakthrough Cancer Research, finding better ways to diagnose cancer early and find better treatments, are so necessary,” says Frances.

“It is difficult now for cancer patients who can’t avail of therapies on a one-to-one basis due to the pandemic. They miss the human physical touch.

“When my mother got sick, diagnosed in 2009, she had no-one to talk to, there were very few supports in place.”

Philippine always had the support of her loving family.

“It was thought mum wouldn’t live longer than six months and wouldn’t live to see Christmas,” says Frances, who has two younger brothers.

Eve and her Granny Philippine Drummond
Eve and her Granny Philippine Drummond

“But she did. She passed away on March 29, 2010.”

The lady who had cared for others so selflessly made her mark living and dying.

“She was born during a snowstorm on March 31, 1947,” says Frances.

“And she died during the snow storm in 2010.”

Frances, bereft, mourning her mother, put her best foot forward.

“I put on a brave face, even though not having anyone to text special messages to was awful.”

Frances has more special people in her life who are joining her on September 20, doing the ‘6km My Way’ for Breakthrough Cancer Research.

“My daughter Eve, now 17, has been taking part in the mini-marathon with me since she was five,” says Frances.

“I loved watching her calling round to the neighbours’ houses for sponsorship ever since she was little. She was so serious about it.”

Eve was mortified too.

“My husband John began taking part in the mini-marathon four years ago,” says Frances.

“We met in UCC when John came over to Cork. And we have a true Cork girl!”

“When John dressed up for fun as a woman for the mini-marathon, Eve was mortified! She couldn’t get her head around it,” says Frances laughing.

“She pretended not to know him and stayed in front of him all the way! I’m not sure if John is dressing up this year again, but any excuse to dress up!”

The Drummond family love the fun and the camaraderie of the mini marathon. Even though this year is a little bit different, they are still doing things their way.

“We’ll all head out to walk the 6km together,” says Frances.

“Seeing all the women line up every year in previous years supporting so many charities is a wonderful thing. I used to cry with emotion at the starting line. The power of women and what they can do together really hits you. It really stands out. I really get that from the day. Women can be strong and emotional together. They really believe in what they are doing.”

Philippine, Drummond.
Philippine, Drummond.

Frances really believes in what she is doing.

“There is a vital need for more cancer research and improving life after cancer,” she says.

“There are more than 200,000 cancer survivors in Ireland, almost 4% of the population, and this number is set to increase. One in 25 people are living life after cancer. Making life better beyond cancer is so important.

“Our small team, only three and a half full-time staff, who take such pride in their work, work hard to make goals happen. They wouldn’t do it unless they had the passion.”

Like her mother, Frances has a passion, putting cancer patients and their families first


Breakthrough Cancer Research is disrupting cancer’s future and saving lives, one research breakthrough at a time. Monies raised through Breakthrough fundraising activities are used to support focused research programmes, directly fund scientists and purchase laboratory consumables. Investment is intended to also enhance facilities with state-of-the-art equipment and ensure all cancer patients throughout Ireland have the opportunity to access the most up to date and effective treatment for their disease. Lo call 1890 998 998 Phone:021-4226655 info@breakthroughcancerresearch.ie


The event ‘6K Your Way’ is free to register, on https://theechominimarathon.ie

You can complete it by walking, running or jogging.

When you are registering you will have the option to purchase a souvenir medal. We are encouraging people to do the 6K on September 20, adhering to all government guidelines.

Upload your results on the website and download a certificate of completion.

If you can’t complete your 6K on September 20 you can also do it from September 18 to September 27.

See WoW! for more on the mini marathon.

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