A close knit London Irish community has helped to raise a staggering £5,507 for the Throat Cancer Foundation in honour of a mum who tragically died from the illness in 2007.
Scores of friends and loved ones of Elizabeth O’Brien hosted the amazing tribute event at O’Grady’s Irish Bar, in Seven Kings, Ilford, on Saturday, December 14 to help raise funds for the Foundation’s work, helping to support those with throat cancer.
Organised by Geraldine Carroll, Anne Lavin, Jeanette Nolan and Ciaran Moore, friends of Elizabeth and her loving husband Jimmy, the lively event included performances from Irish Dancers, who entertained everyone on the evening.
Patrick O’Brien, son of Elizabeth, praised the “remarkable effort” carried out by the Fundraising Team and everyone from the venue.
Patrick said: “We were at first taken aback with the remarkable effort put in by our friends and family. The local community, family back in Ireland, and colleagues of my own, all chipped in and donated, whatever they could afford, and it proved that no matter what they give it can make a difference.
“We are delighted to have raised an amount that will go to help others down the line and raise awareness to get that early diagnosis.”
He added: “We hope that this will allow families and friends to feel more prepared and at ease with a throat cancer diagnosis they may receive and know that they are not alone and there is answers to the multitude of questions they must have whizzing through their heads.”
The event, which was inspired by Elizabeth’s devoted husband Jimmy, was held in honour of the devoted wife and mother who tragically died months after her personal battle with oesophageal cancer, which she was diagnosed with in early 2007.
For those that have to endure the gruelling throat cancer treatment process, they’re often left with life changing side effects. such as hair loss, nausea, weakened immune system, diarrhoea and constipation, mouth ulcers, constant fatigue, tissue damage, saliva gland damage and mucositis (inflamed and ulcerated lining from the mouth to the throat, making it extremely difficult to eat or drink). These side effects can last for months, years or for some, sadly permanent.
Elizabeth’s son Patrick recalled: “Mum found it increasingly difficult to swallow food and sought advice from the GP. After tests and an endoscopy, it was confirmed to be cancer, our worst fears, at the time we felt that the world had crashed in around us.
“Yet from the start, the support from family, friends and all the staff involved in the NHS was brilliant. My mum had at first radiotherapy, yet the cancer had spread the lymph nodes before mum passed away in November.”
Heartbroken by the loss of his beloved mum, Patrick told how he learned just how brutal the illness can be.
To save their lives, some throat cancer patients will have their larynx or parts of their mouths, tongue and teeth removed, leaving them with the ability to no longer to eat, drink or speak.
They can also face social isolation, embarrassment and depression as they don’t want to be seeing trying in to eat in public as it may food and drink may dribble or fall from their mouths. Or they cannot communicate what they want or need. Phone conversations become an impossibility. Even family social gathering is full of dread for throat cancer patients.
Patrick said: “I learned so much about throat cancer, from the initial diagnosis and right through to the treatment and to the unfortunate end.
“I learned that awareness of this particular family of cancers is remarkably low, compared to other types or illnesses. This can be a part of the problem, as the earlier the diagnosis the better prognosis.
“I learned that this cancer can be remarkably cruel and devastating to family and friends, as it can starve you of your nutrition, at a time when you most need it.
“It can be tough on the family and friends as they see this happen before their eyes, and at times knowing there’s not an awful lot they can do, they feel helpless and powerless.
“My mother had her nearest and dearest friends with her, all the way, to show love and support, the same as she showed to others in her time.
“We all need to find time for family and friends, and at times such as this as time is invaluable.
We’ve been very fortunate to know Geraldine for some time now, as well as her partner, whom as a mechanic, was often on call for my Dad and I whenever we had issues with our cars, which unfortunately was at times more often than would have been hoped.
“ We are also personal friends of Jeanette and her husband Christy, a fellow Cork man plus Anne and her husband Kevin, who we regularly meet for drinks. Ciaran and my Dad work closely together and Ciaran has thrown himself into supporting our evening and raising as much money as possible for the TCF. They are all a great team.
“I’m truly happy that the donation has reached the level it has and delighted that the Throat Cancer Foundation has managed to do so much with it all.”
Jamie Rae, chief executive of the Throat Cancer Foundation, said: “We would like to thank every single individual who was involved with this heartfelt charity cause and helping to invest in the research and treatment towards throat cancer.
“Every single penny that is raised is helping to make the medical science a reality and save many lives.
“We are funded mostly by donations, we simply cannot support the growing number of people who need us without the continued generosity of the public.”