Wednesday 28 September 2016

Elaine Crowley: 'I know, statistically, I will get cancer at some point in my life'

Published 26/07/2016 | 08:31

Elaine Crowley with her mother Mary V Crowley. Photo: Barry McCall.
Elaine Crowley with her mother Mary V Crowley. Photo: Barry McCall.
Norah Casey & Elaine Crowley at Marco Pierre White Restaurant in Donnybrook for a fundraising luncheon to support Breast Cancer Ireland, “Midday @Marco’s” . Picture: Anthony Woods

TV presenter Elaine Crowley opens up about losing her father to cancer and bonding with her mother Mary.

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Cancer is the word no one wants to hear. It strikes dread and fear into sufferers and their friends and family.

But the disease can also can bring out the best in people. As Breast Cancer Ireland prepares for this year’s Great Pink Run in the Phoenix Park, Elle Gordon talks to four pairs of women about how, when they were brought to their lowest ebb by cancer, the females in their family stepped up to the plate, and supported them through the tough times and the tears with unconditional love, comfort and companionship.

ELAINE CROWLEY

Presenter and producer of TV3's 'Midday'

When my dad died of cancer, that really knocked us all for six, and Mum was in pieces after that. More recently, her best friend Liz died of breast cancer. It was hugely upsetting for her. It's awful to say, but so many people have passed that are close to her, all from different types of cancer. There has been a bit too much of it in my family for my liking.

I have a better understanding of cancer, I think, through my friend [the novelist] Emma Hannigan [who is currently going through cancer for the 10th time]. She's a very good friend of mine, and that's how I got involved in breast cancer Ireland, through Emma.

My dad, he never spoke about his own cancer. It's something that is very difficult to talk about, because you don't want to face your own mortality and you don't want to talk about what might happen, so that was very difficult.

I know the moment Dad passed away, my mother was in shock, because it never entered her head that he'd actually go. It was something they'd never spoken about, which, in hindsight, is ridiculous, but at the time, I suppose, your head is in a bit of a bubble.

So, to meet Emma and the way she talked about cancer was an eye-opener. When I met her, she was on cancer number six or seven, and she was so matter-of-fact. She said, 'If I don't talk about it, what other way am I going to do it?' That's why I am very passionate about Breast Cancer Ireland.

I know, statistically, I will get cancer at some point in my life. It's not a nice thing to say, but given the amount on both sides of my family, it probably will hit me. There is always that fear in the back of your head.

Some families can fragment when someone dies; some families can get closer together. We went home straight after Dad died and my mum went up to the bed, because it just hit her. I was hugging her, it could have been five minutes, it could have been three hours. I was just kind of rocking her on the bed like she was my baby, as opposed to I was hers.

Then, Mum dusted herself off and she tried to get on the best she could. It took a good few years, I'm not going to lie. Dad's death was utterly devastating for her. But then her best friend gets breast cancer, and the same thing happens over again. It was like history repeating itself, in a way. Sometimes I wonder how she gets out of the bed in the morning with so much pain. There are ten of us, so we keep her on her toes and entertained. But she has been through so much in her life. But she's still here and she's still with us, dusting herself off and getting on with it.

Yes, she annoys me like bejaysus sometimes, but, my god, I admire her so much as well. I've only gone through a fraction of what my mum has gone through. The love of her life died, which is terrible. And then her sister, her father, and her best friend - and that's only the tip of the iceberg. How does anyone go through that?

I'm surrounded by amazing women. I don't know why Breast Cancer Ireland asked me to be an ambassador because I don't feel worthy to be included with these amazing women. They have to live with it. The strength of some women just absolutely blows me away, and my mother would be foremost among them, and the bould Emma Hannigan.

MARY V CROWLEY

Elaine's mum

When my husband passed away from cancer, all the family were with him. I didn't face it, because I was in denial. I knew it was cancer, I knew it was terminal, but you kind of get into a denial mode, and maybe some people cope better than I do.

I'm great when I'm needed and when I need to be strong. But I suffered afterwards because I didn't face it, and speak about it. That's why I think it's very important for anyone that has cancer, if they can, and if the people around them can cope, to talk about it. Some people don't talk about it because they think they're saving you from worrying. The more you speak openly about it, the better it is, and the easier it is.

I suppose every mother says this, but I couldn't ask for a better family. They rally around and they sense when they should be there and when to let go as well. They're always in the background, and you know if you're going to fall down any time, they will be there to lift you up. Elaine definitely was that person.

More recently, my best friend died from breast cancer; she was very glamorous and she loved her make-up and her style. Elaine always had bags and bags of make-up and she would visit, and they'd be comparing eyeliners, and Elaine would say, 'Oh you can have that'.

Elaine did a parachute jump for breast cancer shortly after Liz died, and Liz's death was one of the reasons she did it. When you know someone personally who has suffered from a terminal disease, you do your best for that cause then, because it has touched you. Liz was one of the family.

Elaine - her heart, it melts, and she has an amazing feeling for people, and empathy for people. She can sense it. She was there for me when her father was sick and she had my back all the time.

She has always been there in the background, and I knew I had someone that was stronger than myself at the time. If you have someone who understands, someone who you can talk to and who you can depend on, who you can be yourself with, and let go and kind of go to pieces when the ill person isn't there, that is important, and means a lot to people at the time.

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