Remembering mom... carrying on her work

Earlier this year, Catherine Kingston, from West Cork, lost her brave battle with ovarian cancer. A fundraiser to mark Women’s Little Christmas is being dedicated to her, with monies raised going to OvaCare, of whom she was a great supporter. AUDREY ELLARD WALSH talks to her family about her beautiful legacy
Remembering mom... carrying on her work
Catherine Kingston.

AN inspirational mother and grandmother who lost her brave battle against ovarian cancer in June will be remembered in Clonakilty this coming Women’s Little Christmas.

‘Nollaig na mBan for OvaCare’, taking place in DeBarra’s Folk Club on Friday, January 5, is this year dedicated to the memory of Catherine Kingston, who passed away in the summer. Organised by her husband Martin and daughters Paula, Orla and Deirdre, the night will celebrate women, as well as raising important funds for local charity OvaCare, of whom Catherine was a great supporter.

A dedicated nurse, Catherine was a brave advocate for women’s health education, particularly following her diagnosis in 2013.

Her daughter Paula remembers her mother’s selfless nature and optimism in the face of adversity. Originally from Bere Island, and described as “a very proud island woman”, Catherine and Martin became active members of the local community in Clonakilty when they ran the Kilty Stone pub.

After starting a family, Catherine began nursing in Clonakilty Community Hospital where she spent more than 20 years caring for the elderly.

“She absolutely loved her job and was very much a part of the community there too,” Paula recalls.

“She dedicated her life to people and had great plans for her retirement, but unfortunately that didn’t work out. She had a lot to give and had planned to continue doing so.”

Catherine showed great courage in the face of a prognosis she gravely understood, and made great efforts to support her fellow patients during her own treatment.

“Because of her nursing, Mom knew when she was diagnosed what she was heading into and that her time was limited,” Paula says.

“Mom underwent chemo in the South Infirmary and her nursing training came out when she interacted with the other patients. She was very giving and was almost like a counsellor to the other patients.

“Mom was a very intuitive person and guided us through the whole thing too.

“She was very open about things and had her funeral planned to help take some of the strain off us.”

Catherine also became passionate about supporting the work of OvaCare, a charity which was co-founded by Cork woman June Feeney in 2011 following her own diagnosis with ovarian cancer in 2009.

The organisation hold patient days and coffee mornings countrywide which are free of charge and open to ovarian cancer patients, their families and friends.

These events provide people with an opportunity to hear from leading clinicians, therapists and researchers plus a chance to meet with fellow patients.

“Mom was so brave but the support she received from OvaCare was invaluable,” Paula remembers.

“She went to patient days and got a lot of information about holistic therapies and nutrition.

“OvaCare were amazing for her and we ran this event for them last Women’s Little Christmas too.

“It was a big thing for Mom that we continue to raise awareness.

“She was there that night and absolutely delighted and so proud to be involved.”

LOVED CHRISTMAS: The family celebrating Christmas last year, from left, Martin Kingston, Brian Harrington, Paula K O’Brien, Orla Harrington, Catherine Kingston, Aoibhe O’ Brien, Anthony Muldoon, John O’ Brien, Mary O Callaghan and Deirdre Kingston.
LOVED CHRISTMAS: The family celebrating Christmas last year, from left, Martin Kingston, Brian Harrington, Paula K O’Brien, Orla Harrington, Catherine Kingston, Aoibhe O’ Brien, Anthony Muldoon, John O’ Brien, Mary O Callaghan and Deirdre Kingston.

Paula also remembers the kindness of staff in the South Infirmary oncology department and Marymount Hospice.

“It was an absolutely awful time, especially towards the end, but we got through it as a family, and having things like this upcoming event to focus on helps.

“Mom was amazing and if we can do a bit for her, to remember her and carry on her work, that is what we will do.”

Last year’s event raised more than €2,000 and the family hope to beat that figure.

“Interest has been phenomenal,” Paula says, with tickets selling like hotcakes.

“De Barras are extremely supportive. Clarins are supporting us with some great freebies and loads of local businesses have gotten involved too.

“I sing and dad is a musician as well. We play together a lot locally and many of our friends who are musicians have come on board, no questions asked.

As the theme is ‘women’, people are invited to dress as their favourite woman, be it a female actor, scientist, musician, loved one, or themselves.

“All songs that will be performed were either written by women or performed by women in the past,” says Paula.

“The performers will be women too — and some men donning wigs and dresses. It should be great craic, a night of music and celebrating women.

“It will be obvious that the event is in support of OvaCare and we will have plenty of information leaflets available, but most of all it will be about fun.”

Paula stresses though that improving public awareness of ovarian cancer is critical to help ensure better outcomes for patients.

“As women and mothers we get so busy and prioritise our children that we tend to ignore ourselves sometimes.

“The symptoms of ovarian cancer are also so insidious that they can easily be put down to your time of the month, or feeling bloated or generally unwell.

“Tests are not always accurate and often there isn’t one thing that you can point to. I think though that if women know more about the disease and all of the symptoms, then at least they are armed with that knowledge when going to their GPs.

“If they identify with any of the signs, they can express their concern and hopefully catch it early when the prognosis and treatment options are better.” This Christmas will be difficult without Catherine, but Paula says that the family will celebrate together “like Mom would have wanted.” “There will be 16 of us for dinner this year, including friends and extended family.

“My sister Deirdre also recently had a baby boy and Mom knew the baby was coming which we’re so happy about.

“Christmas was always a big family day for us and Mom loved it when everyone got together so that is what we are going to do.” Tickets for Nollaig na mBan for OvaCare are now available from DeBarra’s Folk Club, Clonakilty. Priced at €15, all funds raised will go directly to OvaCare to help fund their coffee mornings and patient information days.

Symptoms of Ovarian

Cancer Ovarian cancer occurs when the normal cells in the ovary change and grow to form a malignant tumour or cancer. It is the fourth most common cancer in Irish women, with over 300 cases nationally each year, but is often referred to as a “silent killer” due to the difficulty in diagnosing it early.

Cervical screening tests do not pick up signs of ovarian cancer, and there is currently no screening programme for ovarian cancer so awareness of symptoms and knowledge of family history is important.

According to the Irish Cancer Society, most women will not notice any symptoms as it can take a long time for symptoms to occur. When symptoms do appear, they can be mild, vague and varied. Symptoms can include, having a bloated feeling, a persistent swollen abdomen, pain or a dragging sensation in your lower abdomen or side or vague indigestion or nausea. Poor appetite and feeling full quickly as well as changes in bowel or bladder habits are also possible signs, while abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding rarely occur.

While these symptoms can be caused by complaints other than cancer, it is advised to have them checked by your doctor if you are concerned.

Further information about ovarian cancer, and the support services for patients and families is available on OvaCare’s website http://ovacare.ie/.

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