Irish News

Thursday 21 August 2014

Terminally ill Donal delivers message of hope for teens

Lynne Kelleher

Published 08/04/2013 | 06:18

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TERMINALLY ill teenager Donal Walsh has spoken of his wish that his death will make people appreciate life more.

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In a moving interview, the extraordinary 16-year-old spoke about his illness and his love of life in his bid to help stop suicide among his young peers.

The cancer-stricken teenager, from Blennerville, Co Kerry, came to the nation's attention when a letter revealing his personal battle with terminal cancer -- and his quest to end the suicide epidemic plaguing this country before his life ends -- became public.

Last month, Donal told the Irish Independent he feels "nothing but anger" when he hears of young people committing suicide.

The rugby fanatic said he feels angry that they choose to take their own lives and "leave behind a mess that no one can clean up".

"I just see maybe I am meant to be a symbol for people to appreciate life," he told the Saturday Night Show on RTE.

CHALLENGE

"(Faith) is a huge part of it. I wouldn't be where I am without it. I see God has given me this challenge. I may be used as a symbol for other people to appreciate life more.

"It might not be just suicide in particular but just to appreciate life in general then I'll be happy to die... if that is what I am dying for," he said.

Since last October, he has defied doctor's expectations by living past the Easter holidays.

He said: "I know most people would have a bucket list ready to go. Obviously if I had gotten time I would have travelled the world and gone to New Zealand and bungee jumping and all things (like that) but I don't get to see that in life now.

"So as long as I find peace over the next weeks and contentment in my life I will be happy."

He said he never expected to come to national prominence as he didn't plan on his letter on suicide being published, but he does wish it will make young people stop and think about taking their own lives

"I wrote it, I didn't plan on it being published. It was published by accident. I just didn't want them to see suicide as a solution to any of life's problems.

"It kills me because I am here fighting for my life for the third time. That does make me angry and I'm not going to lie about.

"I have nothing against people with mental illness but these people have to realise there is help everywhere."

Donal, who was 12 when he was diagnosed, said he immediately quit school when he was told his cancer was terminal. "If there is anything negative it's all the beautiful things I'm leaving behind.

"From the start I wasn't going to spend my days at home moaning about 'it's coming soon'.

"You might as well get on with life and take what the doctors are giving me and make the most of it.

"It kills me that I will be leaving behind my sister and not see her go through life happy and my four best friends at home who have been like pillars for me.

"I won't see them be happy and do as well as I know they are going to in life," added the teenager who has also spent the last six months raising ¿50,000 for Crumlin Hospital's cancer ward.

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