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Beating cancer after finding lump during early stages of pregnancy



Sarah McGinley was just five weeks pregnant when she discovered a lump on her neck.

Doctors reassured the young teacher that it was pregnancy related, and it wasn’t until after her son Rua Patrick was born and the lump persisted, that she was referred to the endocrine clinic.

After a long wait, an ultrasound, a biopsy and some honest warnings from her the doctor at the clinic, Sarah was diagnosed with Stage 2 thyroid cancer.

“Nothing really was made about it and they weren’t too worried about it at all, and every time I went for an appointment I would tell them my symptoms like they asked,” she said.

Sarah would tell her doctors of her symptoms, most of which were normal, except for the lump on her neck which was thought to have been pregnancy related goitre.

Her bloods were always fine and never gave away any warning signs or showed up any malfunctions of the thyroid.

“When I was lying down I couldn’t swallow properly and it was quite restrictive on my neck and I could see it.

“Not that I was paranoid or anything, but I knew there was something wrong.”

At the clinic, Sarah remembers her doctor’s honesty and efficiency with being able to spot the abnormalities almost immediately.

Soon after, Sarah had her thyroid removed along with some surrounding lymph nodes.

The 32-year-old from Wellpark received radioactive iodine treatment in St Luke’s Hospital in Dublin, where she was in isolation for almost a week.

“It was very difficult at the time. I think the hardest part was when I got home and I couldn’t actually go back to my own house because you can’t be near children or pregnant people for a different amount of time for each person.

“So for me, I wasn’t able to share a bed with my partner or the baby or be near him.

“I was able to be in the same room as him so long as he didn’t come near me which is impossible with a baby, so I kind of had to keep my distance for another week then, so that was hardest on me but he didn’t even notice!”

Despite these difficulties, Sarah was able to have some well-needed rest while on the radioactive treatment, completing schoolwork and watching television.

Adamant she was going to breastfeed her son until he was one, Sarah recalls the disappointment of being told she couldn’t continue to do so.

It was her surgeon’s kindness and empathy with handling her situation that largely got her through her diagnosis and ultimately arriving at acceptance of her illness.

“She was so empathetic; she just very kindly talked me through how the surgery would affect me and how I wouldn’t be able to continue breastfeeding and that really broke my heart.”

Acceptance of her illness came after Christmas when Sarah believed she was fit to return to work, but didn’t realise the toll which the surgery would take on her, as well as everything else that would be coming.

Her surgeon, Orla Young at UHG, and nurse sat her down to kindly explain to her that it was okay not to go back to work just yet.

“I was feeling really exhausted, wiped out exhausted, and they said yes, that’s totally fine and expected and normal and really validated my feelings and me realise that it’s ok, and I was now someone who was really sick which is difficult to get your head around when you’ve not been sick, ever.”

Now officially cancer free, Sarah ran the Colour Dash race with her brother Joe and sister-in-law Jess last week to give back to Cancer Care West and the Daffodil Centres which were a huge help to her.

The Centre also offers counselling to family members and those affected by cancer as well as massages to patients.

Sarah has since returned to work at St. Joseph’s special school where she has received nothing but support from the principal, students and their families.

“I feel like there’s normality returning to my life. When you’re dealing with going to hospital and being told that you have a cancer diagnosis you suddenly enter a parallel universe that’s out of your comfort zone.

“Everything is so strange, and you don’t have a frame of reference for any of it and you feel very uncertain of everything.

“The support, love, understanding and kindness my amazing family, friends, colleagues at St. Joseph’s Special School [where she works in Newcastle], staff at Cancer Care West and the Irish Cancer Society have provided me with over the past nine months has kept me positive and completely focused on getting the all clear which I got today from St. Luke’s.

“My story is ultimately a happy one and I send strength to the families who don’t get to experience the happy ending I did.”

She hopes that Cancer Care West can produce more helpful booklets with the proceeds she raised. Sarah has a fundraising page that can be found here

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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