Since we decided to take on the FFS Stands Up To Cancer Challenge it has raised huge interest from all members at the gym, my friends outside of FFS, people I know in the media and pretty much anyone who I seem to bump into around Leeson St. 


People are very complimentary towards myself and the team at FFS for taking on this challenge and aiming to raise the €50,000. 


There is one thing in common about the majority of people however, and that is that they have a lot of question regarding the numbers; The amount of burpees that would make anyone's head spin, the volume of chin ups before our biceps burst and the amount of money "that we haven't a chance of raising!". What? How? When?


The numbers are important, in fact they are everything to some people, and that's fair enough because I understand that a challenge needs to carry its weight, and this challenge certainly does. But the point that I am trying to make is this; The what and the how are nowhere near as important as the why in this case. 


Why are FFS Standing Up To Cancer? Why now? Why is this so close to our hearts? These are the important questions. 


Recently my girlfriend lost someone very close to her. Her uncle John who was one of the kindest, most positive and gentle men that I have ever had the pleasure to meet.  Courtney and her siblings were very close to John and he adored them all. He was a man that I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with over the past few years.

Watching a disease like cancer cause so much pain in such a short space of time brought back some terrible memories of my childhood. 


I watched my first ever friend go through similar pain during our early adolescence and ultimately face the same outcome that has just hit Courtney's family, at a point in his life where things could have gone down one of two paths. 


I will let Neil tell you the story himself;


Here’s Neil's Story…


"In 2001, my Mam, Eileen, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. It was a big shock for us all but I was only 13 at the time so didn’t fully understand what was going on. She underwent a mastectomy to remove the breast and started to undergo Chemotherapy. The treatment lasted a total of 5 years before she was finally given the all clear. I can still remember her long trips away to the Mater hospital where she would be gone for weeks undergoing treatment. From what I can remember I never really thought about it too much at the time, I was too interested in gaming and girls (not much success there ha) to really think about what was going on. I’ll come back to this point later. 


In May 2008, just a couple of years after the all clear, my Mam knocked at my door one day and broke down in tears (this was when things started to get really hard). She told me she had been to the doctor and he referred her to get checked up on straight away but he wasn’t sure what exactly the problem was but she knew it was serious. I drove her to the hospital. She was taken in and told that there was a problem with her kidneys, they didn’t know what. It started to get really bad so she was sent to St. Vincent’s hospital in Dublin. Her kidneys failed and she nearly died but they still didn’t know what was causing it to happen. In comes ‘Secondary Breast Cancer’. Through further scans in early August they found the Secondary Breast Cancer cells in Mam’s stomach. They found them too late. Myself and my older sister Mags and two of my aunts were asked to go to meet the Doctors in Waterford Regional hospital at the end of August 2008. “Eileen only has a few months left to live….” At that moment my world collapsed, it seemed I was the only one who had thought everything would be okay and I can still remember driving home from Waterford that day with my sister and tears running down my eyes. 


Because we knew Mam only had so much time left she decided to come home and spend her last days in her house, painting, meeting friends and doing things she loved. My sister became a full time carer for Mam over the following months and my aunts helped out a lot. The stark reality of Cancer set in as the day drew closer; Daily visits from the Kilkenny/Carlow Homecare team for morphine and meds, stronger pains a the days went by, less mobility, less control, loss of memory. They say that when a cancer patient nears the end that they choose when they want to slip off. One morning in early December 2008 after a couple of days of deep sleeps and after taking a bad turn she woke up and said “God – I amn’t going anywhere because I haven’t had my boiled egg yet” Both my sister and I share birthdays in mid-December and Mam was there for both of them, Christmas Eve, Christmas day sharing Christmas Dinner, New Year’s Eve having Champagne and celebrating, New Year’s Day family dinner and then on the 2nd of January 2009 when all was done she was content her time had come. She slipped away that evening while I was sitting with her. 


The funeral happened very quick and my grandmother died a few days afterwards so it was a whirlwind. I didn’t grieve at the time but I can still remember the exact moment sitting at my kitchen table about 6 months later it all hit me. I finally had a chance to let the grief take hold. I was in the 2nd year of my degree when Mam passed away. I was left with 2 choices – quit college and feel sorry for myself or make that woman a proud mother. Pulled myself through second year, repeating exams but got there and finished 3rd year to get my degree. As well as that I undertook a transformation by losing 7 stone from December 2008 until April 2009. I was forced to grow up really fast and learn to be independent, I have been through rock bottom so there is very little that phases me now. 


So in all of above there is a lot that is hard to write, possibly hard to read and may seem that I am showing the negatives of my experience but haven’t finished yet…When I said I would come back to the first point earlier I had mentioned that when I originally went through the experience in my teens I hadn’t really noticed what was going on but I know what was going on now – what was going on was that my mother was being the bravest, strongest woman that I know – never did me or my sister see her dwindle despite her losing a breast, losing her hair, spending months at a time in treatment, haven’t to restart life all over again – that was the first time, the second time she just continued where she left off embracing her last few months to do what she loved and meet who she loved and showed every person she knew how brave she was in facing this horrible disease head on and not letting it win. I am not afraid of Cancer, I am not afraid to face it if I was ever diagnosed with it I know how to face it because I witnessed first-hand how to face it and not let it win. It may be a harsh fact of life right now and there may be no ‘cure’ but how many diseases had no cure 100 Years ago and are cured now? How will a cure come about? R&D by charities like the Irish Cancer Society so that’s why I am an advocate. 


As weird as it may seem I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be half the man I am today if I didn’t go through the experience I went through. If you are affected by cancer directly or indirectly embrace the challenge of turning it into a positive, for me it is making my mother proud, for others it will be making their loved ones proud or if you have cancer standing up and fighting it and showing everyone that you will not let it win no matter the outcome. Embrace what can’t be controlled and keep positive. R.I.P Mam."


We all have different reasons for taking on this challenge, for me it's because I don't want to see anyone suffer like this. I want to do all I can to raise the money that will help researchers to beat cancer sooner. 


Help FFS Sand Up To Cancer: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Rory-McInerneyFFS






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