Wednesday 16 October 2019

'Best mother ever' - Mourners weep as daughter (8) pays moving tribute at funeral of brave cancer battler

The coffin of Caroline Sweeney O’Donoghue is shouldered from St Coleman’s Church, Macroom Picture: John Delea
The coffin of Caroline Sweeney O’Donoghue is shouldered from St Coleman’s Church, Macroom Picture: John Delea

Ralph Riegel

A mother of two who lost a brave fight against cancer has been hailed as an inspiration to others through her dauntless courage in battling the illness.

Caroline Sweeney O'Donoghue (37) was hailed at her Requiem Mass by her eldest daughter, Jamie (8), as the "best mother ever."

Mourners wept as the little girl said they will never forget the woman who fought so hard to stay by their side.

"I love my mummy very much. She was the best. She was funny and she always made me laugh. She was so special to me."

"We will always miss her but she will always be by our side. She is the best mother ever."

Mrs Sweeney O'Donoghue died on Saturday after a two year fight against tongue cancer which included a public appeal to raise funds for her to undergo pioneering treatment overseas.

The Cork mother was determined to prolong her life for the sake of her children, Jamie (8) and Zara (3), and her partner, Anthony.

Jamie will make her First Holy Communion next May.

Tragically, Caroline's cancer returned twice after successive bouts of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

In a bid to beat the illness, Caroline even had most of her tongue removed.

The Macroom mother died on Saturday in Marymount Hospice.

Caroline's battle with cancer made national headlines earlier this year after a heartrending appearance on Cork's RedFM.

She vowed to explore every avenue to beat her illness despite doctors telling her it was now time to get her affairs in order and prepare for palliative care.

Caroline had hoped to travel to Germany for pioneering experimental treatment which would cost €30,000.

Her appeal eventually raised €50,000 in less than 48 hours.

RedFM's Neil Prendeville team admitted they were "deeply saddened" by the news of Caroline's death.

“I was brought in and more or less told to put my house in order and to get my will sorted," she explained last September.

"It is not about me. It is about my children. If I was in my 50s I would say, ‘Thank you very much - I have had a very nice time. Good luck.’ But I am just 37 and I have two small girls who need their mother and I am not giving up for them."

"The girls are my life - I have worked so hard all my life. I just want a chance."

Doctors were baffled as to how someone so young could contract such an aggressive form of tongue cancer with the disease normally only found in the elderly or heavy smokers.

Caroline never smoked and lived an exceptionally healthy lifestyle.

Despite the removal of her tongue, the cancer spread to her neck and lungs earlier this year.

Her appeal for help for pioneering treatment in Germany was launched last September but, tragically, Caroline died on Saturday surrounded by her devoted family.

Hundreds attended the young mother's Requiem Mass at St Colman's Church in Macroom yesterday.

Mourners were asked, if they liked, to make a donation to either Marymount Hospice or the Prof Patrick Sheehan Department at the South Infirmary Hospital, Cork in memory of Caroline.

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