When I left school in 1978 I got the first job I wanted - to train as a nurse in St Vincent's. It was immensely good fun living onsite for 18 months with 24 other girls from all over Ireland.
To be a good nurse I learned you need a sense of humour, a strong work ethic, unlimited kindness and resilience.
I loved it, but at times it was so difficult. The night of the Stardust fire on Valentine's Day 1981, I was working in intensive care and I remember the horror like it was yesterday.
In 1985, I moved to Africa for two and a half glorious years with my husband Conor, who was seconded to Lesotho with KPMG. Our daughter Aifric was born there. We were part of a fun expat community and travelled a lot - it was like an extended honeymoon.
I worked in Bloemfontein, in the university hospital on the oncology ward, and I thoroughly enjoyed the work. I had no idea then how cancer would shadow my own life.
PICKING MYSELF UP
In 1987, we moved back to Ireland, and a year and a half later Conor was diagnosed with a brain tumour and, despite a good prognosis, was dead within two and a half years.
Aifric was five and her sister Philippa was three, and I don't know how I got through.
I was completely knocked off my perch during that dark time but knew I had to earn a living for my children so, with the help of family and friends, I slowly got myself together.
In 1992 I started working as a helpline nurse two days a week for the Irish Cancer Society. This helped me as it took me outside my grief.
I then took up a second job in Our Lady's Hospice in Harold's Cross as a research nurse working with the palliative care team on research examining the quality of life of cancer patients and their carers compared with the quality of life of Aids patients and their carers.
I was visiting and interviewing patients and carers across all social divides and I learned a lot about life, and about myself.
In 1994 I applied for a job-share in the fundraising department in the Irish Cancer Society and stayed until 2008. My boss, James Cassidy, was inspirational for me. This was my launching pad into fundraising - I found I was in my element and thrived on the challenge.
In 2008, I got more experience working on the fundraising team at the Niall Mellon Township Trust and, during this time, returned to college to do a Masters in management. Unfortunately, on my graduation day from DCU I was in St James's Hospital as I had been diagnosed with leukaemia and had undergone a stem-cell transplant.
I used ARC before I joined the charity in 2011 and to say I landed my dream job is an understatement.
I know first-hand how timely our services can be - often people just need someone to listen and many don't want to show their distress to family and friends and then others prefer to bring their loved ones along. Nothing that anyone does or says would surprise me now.
When you get a cancer diagnosis it feels your life is no longer in your control and coping with what lies ahead can seem impossible - I have walked in those shoes.
ARC was set up in 1994 by Professor Des Carney, an oncologist at the Mater who saw a gap in cancer care provision for patients and their loved ones.
With more people living with and beyond cancer we are needed more than ever.
I'm up and out at 6.30am for a brisk walk by the sea in Monkstown, breathing in the salty air. Then home to breakfast, emails and the papers.
Before Covid, I'd be in the car at 6.45am, and at my desk in the city centre for 8am, aiming to leave at 4pm. I never clock off and will be on the phone at all hours to corporate sponsors, high net worth individuals and volunteers - when you are asking people to do things for you, you need to be accommodating.
Working from home now, I am still at the desk at 8am and there's a Zoom call at 9.30am to discuss ideas.
We have a flat hierarchy, all 11 employees in ARC are listened to equally and my team will often take me to task.
Later, I'll fit in some yoga or pilates - online at the moment - and do some work for my writing group and practice my cello. I took it up after my diagnosis and it makes me happy.
THE BUSINESS OF GIVING
When I started with ARC it was in trouble but, with the help of an engaged board, we managed to turn our fortunes around.
We are a small charity but we put on big events and aim high and Irish people are so generous.
There are so many charities in Ireland and Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on the sector with events cancelled. Our ability to raise income has been severely curtailed, although we have got creative with fundraising with events like a virtual cuppa and an initiative from designer Helen Cody where she gives a painting for donations.
Working in fundraising, just like nursing, having a sense of humour is invaluable. At ARC, we are deadly serious about what we do but we have fun doing it and cannot wait to reopen our doors and provide our physical services to those that are counting on us.