Friday 15 December 2017

Help Edel's Disney dream

John Manning

A remarkable Balbriggan woman who has devoted her life to helping others is now reaching out for your help in her own time of need as she bids to make a Disneyland dream, a reality.

Three years ago, Edel Kennedy founded Balbriggan charity, North County Outreach and since that time, Edel and a small team of volunteers have enlisted the help of locals to provide food and basic clothing for homeless people on Dublin's streets.

Edel has worked tirelessly for the cause but is now facing a struggle of her own as she battles cancer while continuing to do her amazing work for the homeless.

In March last year Edel presented to A&E with a blood clot in her leg and chest pain. She was told that a bone scan of her sternum was clear and a consultant told her that the pain could be 'all in your head'.

But in September 2011, when 19 weeks pregnant with her son Ben, Edel's car had been written off by another driver on the way to the cinema, causing her to suffer chronic pain, starting in her back and eventually affecting her whole body.

The following year, she finally had to quit her job in AIB bank, after 10 years, as the post-traumatic stress from the accident triggered the chronic pain condition, fibromyalgia, in Edel's brain.

Through all of that, the Balbriggan woman was still able to look beyond her own challenges to help others, setting up her homeless charity three years ago.

When Edel's chest pain worsened last year, another visit to her GP led to further CTs and a bone biopsy, which eventually confirmed cancer in her sternum. Liver cancer showed up too, and further tests in the Beaumont breast clinic confirmed a terminal diagnosis of stage four metastatic breast cancer.

The young mum of three children was told her cancer was too far advanced for surgery, and that it was a case of keeping her well for as long as they could, with little chance of remission.

'I told them I simply wouldn't accept that, as I couldn't leave my babies,' Edel bravely explained.

The next day she started a public blog to document her cancer journey, writing down her fears and hopes.

A gruelling five months later, on every medical and well-being intervention she could manage, Edel made it into remission.

The doctors were shocked, but warned her not to be too overjoyed, as her cancer is so widespread and aggressive that she only has an 8% chance of living five more years.

Edel's husband Bryan, is her full time carer and they have some home help from others to keep the household and Edel's busy charity running.

As well as the cancer, Edel has five other serious conditions which include asthma, fibromyalgia, chronic anaemia, reflux disease and recurrent DVTs. She is on 25 tablets a day, as well as daily injections, and is in chronic pain 24/7.

The family is trying to get a council bungalow locally, as Edel can no longer get upstairs in her house, which is torture for the brave mum, as her children are very young.

Edel and Bryan have three children; Erin (9), Ben (5) and Jake (4). Edel speaks lovingly of her little girl Holly, 'who is in heaven', having died when Edel was five months pregnant in February 2011. Shortly after this loss, Bryan lost his job and, three years later, the family lost their house to the bank, and moved to Balbriggan to start afresh.

With time on their hands they started North County Outreach two years ago to help homeless people, less well off than themselves, distributing donated food, clothes and toiletries in Dublin city centre.

Even with her chronic pain and tragic prognosis, Edel and Bryan still go into town every week and feed around 300 homeless people.

'That's something we never stopped doing, despite the big C jumping into our lives, and we won't stop at all, if I can help it; there is always someone less fortunate than you are out there,' Edel said.

She added: 'Right now we are living life to the fullest we can, I'm trying to stay positive because I believe a positive mind is a positive body. Each day here with my babies is a blessing, so we are hoping to make some dreams come true and make some awesome memories for the family.'

The family goal is to get to Disneyland together, before Edel's health worsens, to create some special memories and fulfil a lifelong dream and this is where you can help someone who thinks about nothing else but helping others.

There is a go-fund-me account, called Del's dream, which is raising money to help the Balbriggan family.

Edel said: 'I am absolutely overwhelmed by how many people have helped me so far; friends, family and strangers. I've only been given an 8% chance of living for another 5 years, but I don't look that far ahead.

'Right now I've got to focus on the here and now, and on making memories with my family; - that's why this trip to Disney is so important to us.'

Fingal Independent

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