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Dublin: 6°C Thursday 20 January 2022

This woman is running 12 marathons to fight a cancer you've probably never heard of

About 400 people in Ireland are diagnosed with it every year.

BRENDA AND PAT Doody were training to run the Dublin marathon together last year.

Their preparations came to an abrupt end with Pat was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.

Brenda said the news was a shock for the family – who had never heard of this type of the disease.

Pat is a non-smoker and has the “odd glass of wine”. Oesophageal cancer is more commonly associated with smokers and heavy drinkers.

“[The doctor] couldn’t give him a reason why he got it … all he could put it down to was bad luck,” Brenda recalls.

Pat had his oesophagus removed during a seven-hour surgery, with part of his stomach being used to created a new one – meaning he can’t eat very much. He also underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Thankfully, he has been given the all-clear but is still being monitored.

It’s one of the most uncommon cancers. Pat is one of the lucky ones. He doesn’t like to be told he has the all-clear, there’s a chance of it coming back.

Pat’s not back at work yet, but has started to play golf again – which Brenda says is “a big thing”.

Brenda's Mercy Marathon Challenge's Photos - Brenda's Mercy Marathon Challenge | Facebook Brenda after the Tralee marathon last month. Source: Brenda's Mercy Marathon Challenge

Brenda, a fitness instructor, is raising funds for research into oesophageal cancer by running 12 marathons this year – with one in Tralee completed recently, she has 11 more to go.

She has raised over €7,000 to date and hopes to at least double that figure. The money will be spent on oesophageal cancer services and research at Mercy University Hospital in Cork – where Pat was treated.

People say to me I’m mad. I’m doing four [marathons] over four days in Donegal in August. It will be hard but I know that I will do them whether I have to crawl or not … It’s my way of keeping sane. I don’t want to just sit down and think of what happened in the last year.

Brenda’s next race is in Connemara on 12 April. Dr Tom Murphy, the consultant who led Pat’s care team, will run the Dingle Marathon with her in September.

Pat hopes to take part in the Dublin marathon with his wife in October, health permitting.

Mercy Marathon Challenge pic1.jpg Brenda and Dr Murphy Source: Gerard McCarthy

Dr Murphy said it was “a privilege to treat Pat”, adding:

“I’m very pleased that he’s returning to work soon and getting out on the road training. Brenda’s fundraising venture honours the tremendous hard work of the multidiscplinary cancer team in the Mercy University Hospital and I am very proud to be working with such dedicated team. I’m looking forward to the hills of the Dingle peninsula this September.”

If you would like to make a donation, Brenda’s fundraising page can be found here.

About 400 people are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in Ireland each year. Approximately 70% of patients have symptoms for more than three months before talking to their GP.

It often starts with everyday digestive complaints that can be passed off as temporary inconveniences. Oesophageal cancer is not gender exclusive, but does affect three times more men than women. For more information visit LollipopDay.ie.

Read: He lost his parents to cancer – so he turned himself into the ‘Daff Man’

Read: ‘I don’t have cancer anymore’: Louise McSharry reveals good news on Daffodil Day

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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