Monday 29 December 2014

Treasured memories of our mother's last Christmas

Ronnie Fehily's children tell Geraldine Lynagh why they set up a charity in her name to help other families

Christmas was Ronnie Fehily's favourite time of year. The Wicklow woman loved having her family and friends in the one spot and made a huge effort to make it perfect. She loved spoiling her little granddaughter, who was mad about her.

But last Christmas was different. The mother of four was surrounded by family and friends as always, but these were her last few days at home and she relied on home care from the hospice to get her through them. She couldn't talk or walk because of the brain tumour she had been diagnosed with just over three months before, but nothing could knock her sense of fun.

"She was in good spirits and laughing at different things that we were doing, or things that were on the television," her daughter Natasha remembers.

"It was nice to have that."

Ronnie passed away surrounded by her family at the hospice in Harold's Cross on January 11. And her family have set up a charity in her name (see panel).

Less than four months before she died, Ronnie had been an active 62-year-old.

She had worked full time as a pharmacist in Edenderry, was involved in fundraising for charities and was planning a ski trip for the following February. Horses also took up a lot of her time.

"My brother Simon was involved in eventing and she went everywhere with him in Ireland and abroad," says Natasha.

Ronnie was fit and healthy and always on the go, but in September she began to feel strange.

"She just wasn't feeling herself," sayss her daughter. "She was just out of sorts. She became concerned about her memory. She just wasn't as bubbly and was slightly distant, which wasn't like her."

Her family brought her to the Hermitage Clinic in Lucan, where she had some tests. "We really thought it was going to be tiredness or something like that," recalls Natasha. But the diagnosis was much more devastating.

Ronnie had a grade 4 glioma. It's otherwise known as a butterfly brain tumour, the family was told, because it extends out like a butterfly, making it difficult to remove.

Because of where it was in Ronnie's brain -- the frontal lobe -- it was inoperable.

"She was upset, but her number one priority was always us and she was still trying to protect us even when she was going through something so awful."

Because of her relatively young age, the doctors tried radiotherapy and chemotherapy. It soon became clear that nothing was going to work and Ronnie went downhill fast.

The family was devastated, but her children, as well as Ronnie's sisters and extended family, pulled together.

Irish Independent

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