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'I was doing long runs, but I almost collapsed - disease was in my body, eating up my energy'

On World Cancer Day, mother-of-three Fran Brennan is telling her story to encourage the public to donate and fundraise for Breast Cancer Ireland

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Determined: Fran Brennan (38) wants to help in whatever way she can with research.
PHOTO: STEVE HUMPHREYS

Determined: Fran Brennan (38) wants to help in whatever way she can with research. PHOTO: STEVE HUMPHREYS

Determined: Fran Brennan (38) wants to help in whatever way she can with research. PHOTO: STEVE HUMPHREYS

Mother-of-three Fran Brennan aims to help with cancer research to protect her daughters in the future, as she prepares to undergo chemotherapy this week.

Fran, a regular runner, suddenly became exhausted and finally almost collapsed before she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The 38-year-old mother of Ruby (7), Molly (5) and Jack (3) knew she had the BRCA2 gene, which meant she had a higher chance of developing breast cancer, and she was monitored as a result.

Fran, from Dublin, said she started feeling "tired, shaky and then I nearly collapsed after a long run.

"But I put it down to I wasn't eating enough before I went for a long run. I came home, didn't feel well and my husband, Damien, called an ambulance," she said.

"I was brought to hospital and told I had a virus. I felt silly saying 'Would it be cancer?' so they sent me off home but three weeks later, I was diagnosed.

"Cancer was in my body, eating my energy, which is why I was feeling shaky and tired. I was doing long runs, so there wasn't enough energy in my body to do it and feel well after it.

"I had a mammogram in late September and I was diagnosed on October 7, 2019."

Tests later found Fran had "an island of tumours" and pre-cancer in the left breast, which would have turned into cancer.

"It was a rollercoaster, finding that I'd be losing my hair, losing my two breasts and ovaries. I went into menopause after surgery at 38," said Fran, who runs Wow Brown Tan.

"I had days when I just felt this is rubbish, but I had to keep telling myself this will last a year or two and hopefully life will be OK for 30 or 40 years.

"I just have to hope the chemo helps. But some days I have trouble even breathing with stress or anxiety.

"But I'm not productive when that happens, so I put my runners on, take a deep breath and it clears my head."

Fran is encouraging the public to donate and fundraise for Breast Cancer Ireland this World Cancer Day and she's determined to help in whatever way she can with research.

"My children could inherit the gene, so I have to worry about my kids," she said. "I don't want them to have to have preventative surgery, removing their ovaries before they have kids, or finding out they have the gene.

"It's a big thing and I'd like to encourage people that if BRCA is in their family, they need to get tested, even if they feel fine.

"If you're eligible, it's free and it could save your life and a lot of hassle.

"I'm starting chemotherapy this week and it's a long journey ahead but I do feel lucky because I knew the gene was in my body and it was being monitored.

"If it hadn't been watched, the cancer could have spread in my body. And I was training for a marathon with three kids.

"Breast cancer is a huge thing for a woman to go through. And it's OK to say you're not OK, to ask for help."

Irish Independent