Walk for Tilly

The late Liam 'Tilly' McElhinney
The late Liam 'Tilly' McElhinney

The heartbroken wife of a Dungiven man who tragically died of cancer just four months ago has, with the help of good friends, bravely organised a fundraising walk in his memory which she hopes will raise awareness of the disease.

Sharon McElhinney’s husband, Liam ‘Tilly’ McElhinney died on January 23 after a 16-month long battle with esophageal cancer. He was 48 years old.

Sharon hopes the walk in the town on June 13 will raise awareness about the cancer which, she believes, too many people are unaware of. Proceeds from the event, whatever people can afford to donate, will go towards several causes.

“If the walk raises awareness and helps just one other family, then doing this will be worth it,” said Sharon.”I can’t take credit for the walk as it was my friends who thought of the idea and are the main organisers of it, with my help and input.”

Liam was diagnosed with stage 3 esophageal cancer in September 2013, but had known something was wrong for some time previously because he wasn’t able to swallow. Prior to a major operation to have his oesophagus removed, Liam had three months of gruelling chemotherapy. He spent seven weeks in the City hospital where, for three weeks, he was very ill and in the intensive care unit.

The chemotherapy stopped in May and Liam had a good summer. He wanted nothing more than to return to his work as a site supervisor with JPM, a company he had been with, on and off, over a period of 20 years.

“He did actually go back to work for three weeks but then he took pneumonia and that was it, no more work,” said Sharon. On December 17, Liam was diagnosed with cancer in the spine and liver. On December 29 they were told Liam’s condition was terminal. On January 8, Liam was moved to the Cancer Centre in the City Hospital and had radiotherapy. The couple received news a bed had been secured at Foyle Hospice on January 22 but, heartbreakingly, Liam died the next day in Belfast

“It’s just horrific,” said Sharon. “It’s just been such a hard time.”

Sharon said by speaking publicly and organising the walk she will hopefully help others.

“If someone does have the symptoms, maybe this will make them think ‘no, something’s not right’, and they will get it checked out.” said Sharon.

‘Walk for Tilly’ takes place on June 13 with registration at St. Patrick’s College, Dungiven, from 11.30am. It leaves from the school, down Main Street, onto Ballyquin Road, across Station Road and onto Hass Road and back to the College where refreshments will be served.

“I really want to thanks everyone who has supported the event, all the businesses and the community,” said Sharon.

To donate to the event, in aid of Macmillan Cancer, Charis, Oesophageal Cancer Fund and the Cancer Centre in Belfast go online to www.justgiving.com/teams/tillymcelhinney

Sharon hopes to donate a bench to the Cancer Centre where Liam received care.