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Shannen Bulman Joyce (left) and Leah Bergin, a nurse in St Therese’s Ward at the Mercy University Hospital. Gerard McCarthy
Cork Marathon

'You've no need to worry about the big C ... cancer isn't painful'

Shannen’s diagnosis came as a huge shock.

IN JULY LAST year Shannen Bulman Joyce was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She was just 19 at the time.

Shannen said the diagnosis came as “an awful shock”.

She found a lump in late May or early June but said: “I fobbed it off because I play camogie so I always have bumps and bruises.”

Then the pain started. Shannen said she struggled to sleep as she was sweating and vomiting with an ongoing pain in her groin.

Her doctor initially thought she had inflamed lymph nodes and prescribed antibiotics. When the pain became unbearable she went to a different doctor who sent her to A&E at the Mercy University Hospital in Cork.

As she left for the hospital, the doctor told her:

‘You’ve no need to worry because cancer isn’t painful. You’ve no need to worry about the big C’ – that’s exactly what he said, I’ll never forget it.

Within two weeks, she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Shannen underwent a bone marrow biopsy, 18 weeks of chemotherapy and – at one point – was taking 26 tablets a day.

She described chemo as “torture”.

Shannen said the local community in Youghal rallied around her family, noting her parents “couldn’t walk down the street without getting tapped on the shoulder by someone asking how I was”.

Shannen is going to run the Cork Marathon on 1 June, as part of one of nine relay teams running in aid of the Mercy Hospital Foundation. She hopes to run five miles, while her father Ken is doing the entire race.

Cork City Marathon pic1.jpg Gerard McCarthy Gerard McCarthy

They’re hoping to raise €16,000 to buy 11 recliners for chemotherapy patients – they have reached about €6,000 so far.

“The support, care and understanding that I received from the staff at the Mercy, on what was the toughest journey of my life, was phenomenal,” Shannen said

I was looked after so well, not only in St Therese’s Ward, but also in a number of other wards including St Anne’s that I spent time in at one point. It wasn’t just me they looked after though, they also helped my family through it.

Shannen, who is studying Recreation and Leisure in CIT, is now encouraging others to take part in the marathon in aid of the Mercy.

Online entries are closed but people can still enter via the post. More information is available here.

Micheál Sheridan, Mercy Hospital Foundation CEO, said the organisation’s mission is to “support the hospital in delivering the highest quality of patient care by raising funds to support advancements and innovation in the treatment and care of patients”.

“This is only possible through the help of our supporters and donors, like Shannen’s family and friends,” Sheridan added.

If you want to donate to the Mercy click here.

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