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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 20 October 2021

'I started chemo on the day of my 51st birthday. It floored me'

Cancer survivor Madeline Page is a torchbearer at today’s Torch of Hope, an annual relay event supporting the ARC Cancer Support Centre.

Madeline Page
Madeline Page

MADELINE PAGE HAD been feeling unwell for months before she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in January.

Having found a lump on the side of her neck, the Dublin yoga instructor was admitted to Tallaght Hospital shortly after Christmas, where she underwent two and a half weeks of tests that confirmed the bad news.

She began chemotherapy on the day of her 51st birthday, the start of what she describes as a painful, challenging six months.

“A good friend came in with birthday cake and it had to be given to nurses because I wasn’t well enough to eat,” Madeline remembers.

Another said jokingly of her purple treatment bag, “You’re getting a purple gift bag, how lucky are you?”

That humour came as much-needed relief during the darker times of treatment, she says.

I got every symptom possible. I was so sick I could barely eat.
I was tired all the time. One of the hardest things was knowing that the old me, the healthy Madeline who ran classes and spoke about wellness, was gone.

unnamed (2) RTÉ’s Keelin Shanley and Irish rugby legend Tony Ward at the launch of this year's Torch of Hope event Source: Robbie Reynolds Photography

What kept her going was the support of friends and family – especially from her husband, Lorcan; two daughters and sister, who came to almost every chemo treatment and held her hand.

In one of many “get well soon” cards sent to her home, one fellow yoga instructor called her “the warrior of light”, a term she says she recalled every time things got tough.

During nights when I’d feel sick and go downstairs so as not to wake Lorcan, I’d remember that phrase and it’d pull me back up again.

For Madeline, the biggest lesson of the ordeal was learning to listen to her body.

When I felt unwell before, I would’ve always assumed it was nothing and pushed through. I’d dismiss sickness because, physically, I was so fit and well.


Now, five months after finishing chemo, Madeline is looking forward to being a torchbearer at the ARC Cancer Support Centre’s annual relay event, Torch of Hope, which takes place this afternoon around Dublin Bay.

She says the charity – which provides free holistic care for people who have been affected by cancer - was a crucial support in getting her life back on track once she got the all-clear.

Organisers are hoping that today’s walk will raise at least €60,000 for the ARC’s drop-in centres and therapy services.

The event begins at 4.30pm, when two separate gatherings will set off from Blackrock Park and the Wooden Bridge at Dollymount.

The groups will converge at the Samuel Beckett Bridge at about 6pm for the final stretch of the walk, a kilometre-long route dedicated to cancer survivors.

Read: ‘Warrior’, ‘inspiration’ and ‘legend’ – tributes pour in after the passing of Tipp’s Eddie Connolly

Read: Louise McSharry said F**k Cancer – and so did a lot of other people

About the author:

Catherine Healy

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