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Mother Courage

At the age of 35, Paula Mulvaney from Drumcondra in Dublin, began a long battle against cancer.

She had first been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. Months of chemotherapy followed and she returned to her normal busy life, looking after husband David and daughter Amy, then aged seven.

"I don't remember this time because I was so young, but it was a most devastating time for all our family, with many ups and downs, highs and lows," says Amy.

Sadly, Paula's battle was far from over. One year later, when cancer spots were found on her liver, she began a course of herceptin, a breakthrough medicine at the time.

Five years of calm followed before the cancer returned to an ovary, resulting in more surgery and chemotherapy.

In June last year, Paula was back in hospital recovering from her most intensive surgery yet. Doctors had found a tumour on her brain during a routine scan.

"The other times I never understood what was going on. I didn't know it was cancer. I just thought mam was sick," says Amy. "Waiting for the surgery was excruciating."

Paula recovered well from the surgery, but was tired and weak. Last December, Paula again felt ill. In early January, she was back in hospital. Her liver was failing and there was no coming back this time. She died on January 23.

"Although the past few months have been horrible and hard to bear, I decided that I wanted to pay tribute in some way to my wonderful, generous, funny, selfless mother," says Amy.

By coincidence, this year's Flora Women's Mini Marathon takes place on June 6 -- Amy's 16th birthday. On that day, Amy and around 50 family members, pals and work colleagues will take part in the mini marathon to celebrate her mother's life and to raise funds for ARC, the cancer support service in Eccles Street, and the Irish Cancer Society.

"During the nine years of her illness, ARC, made this most dreadful time a little easier.

"We are also raising funds to help the Irish Cancer Society continue the fight to find a cure for all types of cancer."

ARC is organising a men's mini marathon on Monday May 2; see www.arcchallenges.com or telephone 01 830 7333. Join the Irish Cancer Society mini marathon team at www.cancer.ie.