Monday 22 July 2019

Support for John at charity night

Front: Edel Holmes (John’s wife), and John Sinnott. Back: Ted Love, Thomas Dunbar, Conor Fitzpatrick and Ciaran Ryan
Front: Edel Holmes (John’s wife), and John Sinnott. Back: Ted Love, Thomas Dunbar, Conor Fitzpatrick and Ciaran Ryan

Cathy Lee

A large table quiz and benefit night was organised by the Courtown company CJ O'Loughlin's at the Coach House in Gorey, all in aid of the John Needs Pembro campaign which is focusing on the cause of John Holmes, an employee of the company for eight years.

Over 100 people came out in support and, as well as the quiz, there was a raffle, head-shaving and leg waxing that was all live streamed on social media, much to the delight of John who was in attendance on the night.

Since Christmas, Maebh Farrell and Emer O'Brien of CJ O'Loughin's have held a raffle as well as the quiz and say there are more plans in the pipeline.

'O'Loughlin's approached us because they wanted to do something for their comrade. They are a fantastic bunch and they organised everything,' said John's wife, Edel Holmes, who got her head shaved on the night.

John Holmes, depot manager and sales rep at CJ O'Loughlin's, is from Kilkenny and lives there with his wife. Together they have two grown-up children, Jonathan and Louise.

He has a rare form of cancer of the larynx, being first diagnosed in 2012, and he had his voice box removed in 2014.

In 2016, his medical team at St James' Hospital in Dublin concluded that no further intervention was advised for John, sending him home.

But since November of 2018, John has been taking pembro infusions, an immunotherapy drug, after a course of 30 were advised by oncologist Professor John Crown.

At the moment, the drug is only being made available by the HSE on 'an exceptional basis' for cervical cancer patients, decided upon case by case.

As the drug is therefore not licensed in Ireland for John, he must pay €5,111 per infusion every three weeks and he has been doing so.

The goal of the campaign is to raise €150,000 so that John can go through with the full course of treatment, as his wife Edel explained that it has been helping him tenfold.

'He is doing so well, you can really just see the difference in him. He's still working and getting out and about when he can. He has faced his illness always with dignity, courage and humour as he never wanted sympathy. I've never seen anyone in all my life to put up such a fight,' said Edel, who has been married to John since 1991.

'It's safe to say everyone who attended the night in Gorey truly enjoyed it, especially John himself, it was fantastic. Already, we have raised over €100,000 for the campaign and in Gorey €1,787 was raised,' she said.

John and Edel have family in Enniscorthy and she thinks the campaign has brought her family closer to the area.

'We're really tied to Wexford now. We campaigned at the game on Sunday too, there's great rivalry in the family,' she said.

John's cause was brought up recently in the Dáil and John's family are trying to take the campaign further to help others like John. 'The fact that pembro isn't licensed is horrific. Prof John Crown is a genius and we are going to go after the HSE because there's other people that are going to need the drug. Everybody is entitled to live,' she said.

Since the campaign began seven months ago, the family have received donations from all across the globe, from the USA to China and Australia.

At the moment, donations stand at just over €105,000 and over 400 people have donated.

Edel said that she has been blown away by the support and she explained that often she is met with people asking here if there is any way that they can help, as well as being reminded that people are thinking of John through his illness.

There will be more events upcoming in Wexford as the campaign continues to strive for the one goal.

To donate to the cause or find out more, visit or search 'John Needs Pembro' on Facebook.

Gorey Guardian