Business Irish

Friday 18 August 2017

I would have dreamed bigger if I had realised how much goodwill and generosity there is

Noelle Ryan, CEO Oesopageal cancer fund
Noelle Ryan, CEO Oesopageal cancer fund

Noelle Ryan

I think my years as an occupational therapist have definitely stood to me. People who have been treated for oesophageal cancer come home to very different circumstances than those they left, and because of occupational therapy I can understand the enormity of that. Though I never imagined when I was learning my trade that I would transfer those skills to running a national charity.

If you had told me 16 years ago, that what began as six of us trying to honour our friend Lucilla would grow to funding Ireland's first national Barrett's Oesophagus Registry and Biobank, contribute to development of new technologies in e-treatment and studies like 'ReStOre' - which will show for the first time how a rehabilitation programme involving exercise and dietary advice may help patient recovery - I genuinely would not have believed it.

If I'd known then how kind, how generous people can be and the enormous amount of goodwill out there I may have dreamed bigger than the original fundraising ball that we held all those years ago. I would have been less daunted, less worried, less anxious to ensure we were doing the right things and making the right call. None of us had ever run anything like what OCF has turned into.

We are completely self-taught and that makes me even more proud of where we've come to.

Despite my worry, or maybe because of it, I have definitely become more daring. You will never get anything if you don't ask for it.

Charity work is not for the faint hearted nor the wallflower. It is how we got our patron, Pádraig Harrington, on board. A bit of brass neck really from us but he agreed right away and has been amazing for us. But if I'd not asked then we would not have such a wonderful ambassador.

A crucial thing as we have grown is to retain that spirit of friendship on which the charity was founded. We had a survivors meeting earlier this year and we had 85 oesophageal cancer survivors come together with consultants, nutritionists, physios, ourselves and Padraig.

It ran hours over the finish time because of all of the chat. There is immense satisfaction in bringing people together for some support, problem sharing and a good chinwag. Everyone needs to talk.

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