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Dublin: 17 °C Friday 7 August, 2020

Doing it for mum: Why sisters Barbara and Dorothy Phelan are walking 42km this June

The pair are joining the Irish Cancer Society’s Marathon In A Month event.

Barbara, Dorothy and their mum Teresa.
Barbara, Dorothy and their mum Teresa.
Image: Irish Cancer Society

OVER THE NEXT few weeks, Barbara Phelan and her sister Dorothy will be hitting record numbers on their daily step counts.

The siblings are just two of the hundreds of people across Ireland who’ll be taking on the Marathon In A Month, in aid of the Irish Cancer Society. The aim is to complete a 42km distance across the month of June, by walking, running or cycling, at a pace that suits you.

For Barbara and Dorothy, who will be taking part with seven cousins and an aunt, the virtual fundraiser offers a chance to honour their late mother.

Teresa passed away from lung cancer in September 2017 aged just 63. She received home care during her final nights from an Irish Cancer Society Night Nurse.

The Night Nurse service provides pallative care to cancer patients, allowing them to die at home rather than in a hospital or hospice. As well as nursing care and providing medications, a Night Nurse offers practical support and reassurance for families who are dealing with the pain of saying goodbye to a loved one.

“Often we sit up at the bedside of the patient while the family sleeps,” says Susan Shaw, a registered nurse with over 30 years of experience who joined the Irish Cancer Society’s Night Nursing team around five years ago.

“The fear of not knowing what to expect and what will happen next for their loved one is a huge thing for the family, so just talking through this with them can be really, really helpful.”

For Barbara’s family, the service made a huge difference, giving their mum her “dignity” and giving them immeasurable peace of mind. In the end, Teresa’s Night Nurse was with her when she passed away.

“Mammy had such fear about going to the hospital,” Barbara said in an interview with the Irish Cancer Society.

When we were able to get a Night Nurse, it allowed her to be at peace. I knew Mammy wouldn’t slip away in front of us, because she wouldn’t want us to have that memory.

Last year alone, over 1800 patients across Ireland used the Night Nursing service, receiving a total of 7200 nights of care.

Services like this are free of charge for patients, and are funded almost entirely by public donations to the Irish Cancer Society through fundraisers like the Marathon In A Month.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, demand for Night Nursing has increased by 20 per cent. And with key fundraisers like Daffodil Day cancelled, fundraising events are more important now than ever.  

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CROPPED LR Barbara and Dorothy (1) Sisters Barbara and Dorothy. Source: Irish Cancer Society

As well as raising vital funds and paying tribute to their mum, Barbara and Dorothy are using the Marathon In A Month as a chance to stay connected to family around the country.

Altogether there are 10 women across the country who will be lacing up their running shoes, an “amazing bunch of girls,” says Barbara. Some plan to walk the 42km – in memory of Teresa, and also in support of Barbara’s aunt Maureen who is a breast cancer survivor – while others aim to run it.

“Our group has varying levels of fitness, so it’s a good challenge for us. The girls have always been there for us so it’s great to be able to do this together too.”

Take on the Marathon In A Month to help support people affected by cancer. Walk, jog or run the 42km distance, at home or outside within your 5km radius. Last year over 1000 people took part. Why not join the team? Register now! 

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Irish Cancer Society

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