Cork teen takes on The Echo Women's Mini Marathon in memory of her nan

This young woman will take part in her first ever Echo Women’s Mini Marathon in memory of her nan and in aid of CORK Arc Cancer Support House
Cork teen takes on The Echo Women's Mini Marathon in memory of her nan

Sophie Coughlan, Frankfield who will undertake The Echo Women's Mini Marathon on September 18 in aid of Cork Arc House, in memory of her nan. Picture" Darragh Kane

A TEENAGER from Frankfield is doing her first Echo Women’s Mini Marathon in memory of her nan, who received great support and care during her illness, at Cork ARC Cancer Support House.

Sophie Coughlan, 17, is taking part in the race this Sunday, September 18, in memory of her nan Kathleen Tobin.

“I decided to do the Mini Marathon for Cork Arc House in memory of my beautiful grandmother Kathleen Tobin, (Nana Kay),” says Sophie.

Sophie and Kathleen shared a unique relationship.

“Nan was inspiring to many and absolutely adored by most,” says Sophie.

“Myself and nan had a relationship which is irreplaceable and one which I’m extremely grateful to have experienced.”

Kathleen had a rich life.

“In nan’s lifetime she made a few marks,” says Sophie.

“In 1970, she met the love of her life (Donal), they tied the knot after five years in 1975. Together they raised three successful children, Eileen, David and Clodagh. Nan’s first born went on and made nan a grandmother to myself Sophie, my brother Shane and my sister Amy.”

Sophie Coughlan and her nan Kathleen Tobin.
Sophie Coughlan and her nan Kathleen Tobin.

Kathleen was a hands-on granny who adored her grandchildren.

“Personally for me growing up, I was lucky enough for my grandmother to live close by,” says Sophie.

“When my parents worked, nan looked after me, we always had an amazing time cooking and baking in the kitchen. We played games, mainly chasing and shop. Nan would have done anything for us to be happy. Definitely, in my eyes, nan made the best Irish stew and pink iced cream pastries.

“In her free time she watched Fair City with an apple in the hand. She enjoyed tuning into the County Sound on a Sunday. Nan did a lot of voluntary work with the Lion House. My grandmother was highly involved with the ICA. She enjoyed the social aspect of meeting people and going out for tea.”

Kathleen passed on good advice.

“My grandmother taught me many things through the years we shared together, kindness was the main lesson, nan used to always say, ‘You could be a millionaire but if you don’t have kindness you have nothing’. We shared the best memories together,” says Sophie.

“Nan always supported and encouraged me, she attended all awards nights with granda. I recall many times when I stayed in her house she would never leave me go to bed without a hot water bottle and made sure I was tucked into the bed and warm. I’d say she easily came in to check on me three to four times a night.

“She never left a birthday go unrecognised, it was marked with a party celebration and a personalised cake. Even when she was in ICU on Christmas Day, 2018, she managed to organise gifts so that she could hand them to us and didn’t let anyone down.

“She loved the news but hated the gossip. There wasn’t a single bad bone in her.”

Kathleen had lots of love in her life.

“Growing up, I was lucky enough to see how much nana and granda loved each other,” says Sophie.

“Every year they went on a trip to Killarney and Ballyheigue they loved the traditional Irish music. Nan loved the shopping, she was always stylish.”

Kathleen was wise too.

“When she had new clothing on, her granda used say ‘Is that new?’ Her response was always, ‘No, I had it in the wardrobe a good while!’ He was never any the wiser! Especially when nan was sick, I really got to see how much granda adored her.”

Kathleen sadly fell ill in June, 2015.

“Nan unfortunately got diagnosed with bowel cancer but even with her diagnosis, she always kept her positivity, but our hearts broke to see her in so much pain,” says Sophie.

“She underwent an operation for her bowel in Bon Secours Cork. Just after that she had chemotherapy that definitely took a lot out of her but she kept her bright smile.

“Chemo finished then she was informed she had modules in her groin and lung cancer. At the time, the only answer was further surgeries and to start radiotherapy which was up in Dublin.

“At this point of the cancer journey, the stress definitely hit my grandfather as he had to find suitable accommodation and travel for nan’s needs.

“While in Dublin, nan was asked to do a trial. Although this would not benefit my nan she had the heart and did it in the hope of helping others.”

Sophie cherished precious time with her nan.

“She came home from Dublin and thankfully wasn’t as sick for a couple of months and as a family we made the most of every minute with her,” says Sophie.

Sophie Coughlan, aged 17.
Sophie Coughlan, aged 17.

In November, 2018, the unimaginable happened. “Nan went into ICU in the Bons and the future was so unpredictable. On three occasions we were told she wouldn’t make it. I can recall the night of the The Late Late Toy Show when we were told she only had 12 hours to live. They are words which break you, especially when the person had such a huge impact on your life.

“During her stay in ICU, nan got a tracheostomy put in, even with her being in the ICU she still kept her positivity and fought so hard, I personally couldn’t be any prouder. The ICU delivered exceptional care to nan, which we as a family will be forever very grateful for.”

Kathleen was a legend.

“Nan was known as the miracle lady by the staff of ICU,” says Sophie. 

“I remember walking into the ICU on Christmas Day, 2018, to visit nan and it was heart-breaking to see her so sick but that was the reality of cancer.”

Kathleen battled on.

“In February, 2019, Nan was finally capable of coming home,” says Sophie. “We were all absolutely thrilled to have her back. From the moment she entered the front door she lit up the house again. Nan depended on oxygen full time when she came back but she still made every minute count and her presence brought so much joy.

“Sadly, my grandmother deteriorated in April and on September 26, 2019, she departed this world just three days before her 70th birthday.”

During nan’s cancer journey, Cork Arc House was an amazing support.

Sophie said: “Nana was also offered social chats, massages and counselling. She felt Arc House was very homely and admired their beautiful garden. In the aftermath of nan’s death, Cork Arc House gave my family phenomenal counselling.

“Three years on, nan is missed dearly and always will be. When I shop I always think ‘Oh nan would love that’. I still hold onto the advice she gave me. I would do anything for a chat or a hug from nan.

“To the people who still have their grandmothers, cherish every single moment as you never know what tomorrow holds. I personally couldn’t be any more prouder to have called Kathleen my grandmother.”

Sophie is proud to support ARC House Cork.

“It is great to support Cork Arc services, they provide a safe place for people with cancer and their families. It also gives amazing support to families who are grieving there loved ones.

“I am very much looking forward to doing my first Echo mini marathon.”

Contact Cork ARC Cancer Support House on 021-4276688.


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