Our brave mum lost her battle with cancer -- but her cards will help others this Christmas

Caitlin McBride

The first sign something was wrong with tragic young mum Louise Byrne occurred during a very normal Sunday morning.

Louise's young daughters Alanna (7) and Cara (5) bounded into their parents' bedroom for some morning family mayhem.

But when little Cara's head accidentally hit off Louise's chest, the pain was unusually sore.

Louise's husband Paddy explains: "At first she thought it was just a little bruise, but after a couple of weeks, she went into the doctor who said that they would do a routine check-up and that's how it came about.

"They did say she possibly had it for three or four years before. It was a simple thing, how we actually found it."


Louise lost her battle with breast cancer three months ago -- just days short of her celebrating her 10th wedding anniversary with Paddy. She was just 37 years old.

Speaking to the Herald, Paddy said: "We were together for 17 years, and were married 10 years in August.

"Our anniversary is on the 18th, so it was a tough couple of months.

"But the girls keep me strong and keep me busy."

Unfortunately, the Byrne family are all too familiar with heartbreak. Louise and Paddy lost a daughter, Shona (3), in 1999 to a rare genetic condition called Alstrom syndrome.

However, Paddy said the girls had taken solace in the fact that their mum was now with their older sister.

"Shona was only three when she died," he said. "It was a hard old process after Shona, then Louise got the news.

"But I got a bit of comfort thinking that they are there together, my belief is that she had somebody there waiting for her. That was sort of the response I gave to the girls, saying that they had mammy for so long and now it was Shona's turn. It gave the girls some comfort. That's sort of it, and how we dealt with it."

Louise had been a determined fighter throughout her treatment, and had always fought it admirably.

Her treatment broke her family's heart, particularly when she lost mobility in her legs in January, when she moved full-time into Blackrock Hospice.

"There was nothing ever hidden from them (the girls). From the time Louise was diagnosed, they became used to cancer, chemo, radiation and death. It was all apart of it.


"They could perform a procedure, they are that used to it. They've been reared with it. At first, it was frightening for them. They'd go in and see Louise hooked up to a machine. But it became second nature, they were used to it then.

"Louise would be a lot stronger than I ever was.

"She was sort of the stronger of the two of us. She wasn't afraid of anything or anyone. She'd just deal with it. In a way, she took the bull by the horns."

Their big-hearted daughters have also taken some of their mum's most endearing qualities and often speak of her. "They talk about her all the time. I had done up the house to give me something to do. And they'd be giving out to me about the mess, saying, 'Mammy would have killed you for the mess'. They still talk about her. When they stop talking about it, then I'd worry.

"They have their moments. They have good days and bad days as we all do," he said.

Brave Louise worked until her final days and the Bray Cancer Support Centre has just launched its special Christmas card collection, designed by the talented artist.

CEO Veronica O'Leary asked her to design the cards, saying that this year they were "extra special".

The special edition cards cost €5 for a pack of six cards, with three designs in each pack and proceeds will go towards the centre's Home Support For Families programme.