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'I don't know if I have the strength she had' - Keelin Shanley's husband mourns late wife

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Conor Ferguson and Keelin Shanley

Conor Ferguson and Keelin Shanley

Conor Ferguson and Keelin Shanley

The husband of Keelin Shanley has spoken about the courage and strength his late wife showed facing her illness.

The broadcaster died peacefully on Saturday, nine years after first being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Her husband, Conor Ferguson, said her family was by her side. "It was sunny, just before the storm rolled in and she looked happy and she looked very peaceful. You just have to let that be enough, I suppose, and not get tied up too much in regrets.," he said. "I'm not sure that will come but at the moment you're in a bubble of love and support."

Throughout her diagnosis and illness, Shanley had remained stoic and positive. "Her approach to life was 'just keep going'... so even like when they told us on Thursday that pretty much it was the end of the line she accepted that.

"She wasn't trying to find some type of therapy and possibilities. She trusted her oncologist - we both did. If he said this was it, then that was it. We didn't realise how quickly it was going to be. It was very peaceful in the end."

He said his wife 'led from the front', and that he "and the kids followed her lead. Her attitude was to get on without it and see what is out there".

He also spoke of the incredible strength his two children have shown adding it was a trait they had inherited from their mother.

"The kids are doing really well. It was just them, me, and her at the end and they were incredibly strong. Everyone keeps saying it. Certainly they are their mother's children. I don't know if I qualified as having the strength that she had," he told the Irish Daily Star.

Last year, Ms Shanley had travelled to Washington DC in America to participate in a new stem cell therapy programme.

"We got onto a trial treatment in America in the summer. We went over to apply for it and she is a US citizen. She was born in the States. So she was kind of technically eligible... and they tested her and put her on the programme.

"The therapy is they grow your own cells, they profligate them out of your body and then put them back in when you go back over but we didn't get to go back over because her illness just went a bit too fast for them".

Ms Shanley continued her treatments with the help and guidance of her oncologist at Saint Vincent's Hospital. He said she remained extremely positive while living with the illness.

"The thing about that was she was always ambitious and when it came to having cancer, she was still ambitious. She was a very positive person and once there was some hope no matter how slender, that was enough for her to go 'Okay, well all is not lost yet.' She had it in 2011 and had a mastectomy and was cured. She was cancer free for several years and then it just came back."

Mr Ferguson said despite receiving the all-clear, Ms Shanley believed the cancer could potentially return. "She was declared cancer free for years and had her annual checks and was grand so we were kind of lulled into a false sense of security.

"It was just a bit of a kick in the teeth that it came back and she kind of knew," he said. "She knows a lot about health. She covered a lot of this on Morning Ireland and the Sean o'Rourke show. She knew once she was told it was stage four that her days were numbered but she struggled on."

Mr Ferguson said renovating their family home in Dun Laoghaire and taking walks by the sea had taken her mind off her illness.

He said that at times, when her chemotherapy appeared to have been working, she even contemplated going back to the newsroom.

"So over time something good happens, we'd go 'well maybe we would ride this now for a while'. She always though 'maybe there will be something'. In particular, with the election coming up, she thought there might be something she could do but equally she felt 'Well do i need to bring the stress on myself?' She liked the idea but it wasn't to be, largely because RTE were kind of saying 'no you stay and be with your family. Don't push yourself."

He said RTE was very supportive of his late wife throughout her illness. "They have been incredible supportive, in particular Hilary, who she reported to in the newsroom.

"She has been just amazing because obviously everything else that was going on in RTE, it was very difficult to managing her absence. She went in at one point and she just became too ill on the job. That was pretty much the end of it."

Mr Ferguson said he is still in a state of shock and coming to terms with the loss of his wife.

"It is very hard to be grieving in this moment. My heart is full and overflowing at times," he said.

"There has been so much respect for her as well. I suppose I am in a state of shock. It was very emotional yesterday but some of the emotions were kind of nice. I suppose the love you get to have in that moment, and the love that has come in from all point through social media and the piece on the news, it makes it feel like more of a good life. She felt she had lived a good life and she felt lucky."

Online Editors