A Greencastle woman diagnosed with a rare form of cancer has spoken of her gratitude to colleagues in Limavady who organised a fundraiser with a difference this week.
Gwyn Doherty was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins lymphona in April of this year.
The 29-year-old, whose mother is from the Brandywell and whose boyfriend is from Derry, is a dance fitness instructor and had been teaching classes at the Roe Valley Leisure CentreLimavady for the past two years, right up until the New Year when she fell ill.
She has been receiving treatment since.
“It presented in my left eye as a massive infection. When we finally discovered it was cancer I was absolutely terrified. I had to spend two agonising weeks waiting to find out the extent of my cancer and what treatment it would take,” said Gwyn. “I was worried that I would lose my vision or lose my eye completely.I was very lucky to receive a good prognosis. I knew I had a hard time ahead, but I was going to survive.”
Gwyn is currently in the process of having a Stem Cell transplant.
“Again I had good luck. My brother was a perfect match for the transplant. I received my transplant two weeks ago and it has been the hardest thing I have done in my whole life. It has been much harder than any other cancer treatment I received so far, but each day I feel a little better and have more energy and enthusiasm.”
Unfortunately for Gwyn, the only place she could receive treatment was in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.
“As I was self employed, there was very little financial support available to me. Eventually I became entitled to a disability benefit, which was only available to me after I had been released from hospital as an out patient. The disability benefit took over 16 weeks to process. This meant that a massive financial strain has been placed on me and my family during my illness. My family have stayed with me in Dublin the whole way through my treatment,” said Gwyn.
“After being in hospital for four months the hospital would only allow me to leave if I attended their day patients sessions and live no further than 10 minutes from the hospital, so I had to move to Dublin. I am currently getting a stem cell transplant. This transplant can only be done in St James Hospital, also in Dublin. I will be attending out patients here for up to six months after the transplant.”
Having been a huge part of life at the Roe Valley Leisure Centre, staff were eager to support Gwyn. On Wednesday they held a two-hour ‘Zumbathon’ to raise funds.
Roe Valley Leisure Centre duty manager, Stephen Graham and instructor Catherine Simpson were only only too happy to help.
“We thought it would be a good idea to help and show some support for Gwyn. Customers are asking about Gwyn and she is missed a great deal. Gwyn is well thought of in Limavady and, as soon as she is ready, she will be back on the programme. She is definitely an inspiration,” said Stephen.
Gwyn said since she “came out” with her illness, she has been “completely over whelmed by the generosity of my family, friends and community”.
Gwyn said: “The messages of support I received helped me through a very difficult period.Within weeks of my illness being known, charity events where being organised to assist us with the financial struggle which helps ease a lot of the stress. As well as the Zumbathon, there are workshops being held by Polercise Belfast and a dance in the Strand Hotel, Ballyliffin with music by The Cavanagh Brothers on the 29th.”
Gwyn wants to thank all those who have supported her, including the Roe Valley Leisure Centre.
“The staff have always been very welcoming to me. I have assisted with a couple of their charitiable events. They are, as an organisation, very involved in their community and always trying to offer something exciting and new. It’s a wonderful place.”
Gwyn urges anyone who has a gut instinct something doesn’t feel right about their health to see a doctor.
“In your twenties you feel invincible to cancer. It is something that happens to kids and older people. It can happen to anyone at any time. If you’re concerned about your health, please get yourself to the doctors. and don’t forget to check yourself regularly for lumps and bumps that just shouldn’t be there,” she said, adding: “If, after the treatment is completed we have funds left, I intend to set up a new charity that will provide short breaks to couples and families that may have just received a diagnosis, or that have been separated for a long time and need to reconnect in a relaxing environment.
“I hope this will go some way to repay the kindness that has been shown to me.”