Castleblayney Cancer Society was established in 1989 to support the Co Monaghan Hospice Homecare Movement. The Hospice Movement’s function was to provide effective Palliative Care to people with a diagnosis of terminal Cancer. Palliative Care’s aims is to improve the lives of people whose illness is no longer curable, helping them to live as fully as possible to the end. It seeks to relieve the physical symptoms of illness while addressing the patients emotional and spiritual needs. They also provide support to families and those who are important to the patient and this extents into bereavement.
Considerable resources were required by the movement to enable them to provide this level of new and innovative expertise to patients. The expertise required included specialist nursing (which at that time was a new speciality for nurses), specialist medical expertise, specific equipment and financial support for patients and their families who were experiencing hardship as a result of their diagnosis.
Following public information meetings each of the five main towns in Co Monaghan formed Committees to provide funding to resource the County Committee. It was in October 1989 that Castleblayney Cancer Society was established. At that time its main function was to fundraise and many very successful events were held. However the Castleblayney Cancer Society’s Constitution, when being drafted, indicated that the committee would regard itself as a support group for all cancer sufferers. The aim of the group was then and is today to provide assistance to people experiencing cancer over the course of their treatment whether it be curative or terminal care.
Since its formation support for the Castleblayney Cancer Society has grown dramatically. Initially fundraising was organised by the committee with the help of many willing volunteers. Charity dances and concerts were the main source of income. These nights of entertainment were hugely successful as not alone did they raise much needed funding but they created an awareness to the work of the Cancer Society. They also inspired other people within the community to raise money on our behalf. It would be impossible to name all those who fundraised but much appreciation is recorded to the late Dickie O Sullivan, Tony Loughman, Pat McDonnell, Olive McCrea and Moira Irwin who sadly are no longer with us. These associated committee members travelled the roads selling tickets and convinced their friends in the entertainment business to donate their time and talent in support of our cause. As time progressed fundraising events varied with auctions, head shaves, golf classics, marathons, bungee jumps, knit inns, table quizzes and flower sales the list is endless. There is scarcely a townland within the Castleblayney area that families from pre-school age to senior citizens haven't contributed or organised an event on our behalf. It is because of such generosity that we are able to provide the level of support that families so badly need in times of sickness.
In July 1992 the Hospice Homecare Service was launched in Co. Monaghan. This was marked by a function in the Glencarn Hotel in Castleblayney. Nurse Mary Lennon from Ballybay was appointed to the position with nurse Moya Carroll as her relief. For a number of years these nurses provided a "Hospice" or "Palliative Care" service to the people of Co Monaghan. The funding of this service was provide by a unique management between the Co Monaghan Movement, the Irish Cancer Society and the North Eastern Health Board (now the HSE). The photograph shows members of the original committee at the launch of the service.
Back row (L to R) Ursula McGuigan, Des McGlynn, Mary Connelly, Fr John Flanagan, Mairead McGuinness, Leslie Oliver, Geraldine McSorley.
Front row (L to R) Ruth McCully, Tessie McGuinness, Nurse Moya Carroll, Nurse Mary Lennon, Dr Mary Flanagan.
In 2004 the North Eastern Health Board (now the HSE) took responsibility for the funding of the Palliative Care Service. Since then the Palliative Care Service is provided by the Cavan-Monaghan Palliative Care Team and has developed into an effective Multidisciplinary Team providing care for not only cancer patients but for all patients requiring their expertise regardless of the diagnosis. As a result of these developments the Co Monaghan Hospice Homecare Committee was disbanded and each town in the County now operates independently supporting cancer patients in their area and supporting the work of the Palliative Care Team caring for Cancer patients.
The Co. Monaghan Hospice Homecare Movement was inspired by the work and advice of Dr Tom McGinley of the Foyle Hospice in Derry, Mr Tom Hudson C.E.O of the Irish Cancer Society, Mr Pat Drury Chairman of Co. Monaghan Hospice Homecare Movement and Dr Rory O’Hanlon then Minister For Health and Children. The words of Dame Cicily Saunders, founder of the Hospice Movement, was the motto used by the founders of Co. Monaghan Hospice Homecare Movement and continue to inspire the work of Castleblayney Cancer Society today. Her philosopy in relation to caring for people who require terminal care was “You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully but also to live until you die”. Dame Cicily died from cancer in 2004.
A number of founder members of Castleblayney Cancer Society are now deceased. The most prominent of these where Tessie & Mickey Mc Guinness and Des Mc Glynn. It was there innovation, creativity and hard work which inspired the concept and foundation of the society. In 1999 Castleblayney Cancer Society was privileged to host an event to mark the 10th Anniversary of the development of a hospice committee in the County. President Mary Mc Aleese was the guest of honour at this event which was attended by supporters and committee members from all areas of the County. It was appropriate that they and all of the hardworking founder members of the committee had their efforts acknowledged the first citizen of our Country.
Today Castleblayney Cancer Society works towards ensuring that people in the area who are experiencing Cancer are aided to obtain the best possible treatment and care in centres of excellence, regardless of that centres location. Many of the people who avail of the service recover and live long and fulfilled lives. The Society are happy to support people during a traumatic and difficult time in their lives.