Kerry woman urges Daffodil Day support – ‘Being diagnosed with cancer at 17 shows you how fragile life is’
Killarney woman Naomi Brosnan describes herself as the ‘luckiest unluckiest person ever’; despite facing huge obstacles, she now has a bright future.
In just a few months the Kerry woman will move to Australia with her boyfriend, but before she heads off, she’ll make a special gesture for the Irish Cancer Society who, for nearly nine years, have supported her. One day, her dream of becoming a mother may come true, and she owes this to the Society’s Childhood Cancer Fertility project.
Naomi had her eggs frozen following cancer treatment in a bid to ensure that some day she will have her own family. She will undergo a second egg extraction for freezing in June.
It’s been a long journey to this point, but since she was diagnosed with cancer, fertility has been foremost in Naomi’s mind. She immediately asked about freezing eggs ahead of chemotherapy, but there was no time given the seriousness of her condition.
“I had always wanted to be a Mom...but they told me there was no time to get my eggs frozen,” she says.
Naomi was diagnosed on November 5, 2014. One day later, she started treatment.
“I was literally knocking on death’s door,” she says, but she was determined to fight on.
“I had prepared myself before I even got the news,” she says. “I had googled the symptoms and it was obvious it was cancer. I was puking green bile, I had no appetite and I had lumps. I told people I think I have cancer and they said stop overreacting.”
It was stage-four burkitt lymphoma – a rare form of cancer. Naomi was just 17, a student in St Brigid’s Secondary School in Killarney.
“I just wanted to get this done and dusted,” she said. “I didn’t pity myself, I am not a moper...I had no other choice but to get on with it and put up a fight.”
So began five months of intensive in-patient treatment in Cork University Hospital. This was made easier by her family and friends, who visited constantly despite the trek from Kerry. The Irish Cancer Society stepped in too and helped pay some of the travel costs.
Naomi was one of the lucky ones; her cancer went into remission.
Immediately after treatment she asked again about freezing her eggs but was told that the chemotherapy would likely have damaged them. This was “heart-breaking” news but, in keeping with her personality, Naomi was determined to prove everyone wrong and, following tests, she was found to have suitable eggs. So began the process of finding funds to freeze them.
This would be expensive, and Naomi had planned to source a loan, but thanks to a three-year Childhood Cancer Fertility project with the Irish Cancer Society, she began the freezing process at the Merrion Fertility Clinic in Dublin for free: “I was bawling crying when I found out I was eligible to take part in this. There are actually no words to explain how grateful I am for this project,” she says.
Naomi says that nobody speaks out about fertility issues after a cancer diagnosis, but it is so important. Free egg and sperm freezing are available for those diagnosed with cancer if there’s time to do so. This project has literally protected her dream and was especially helpful given she also had an immune deficiency disorder and endometriosis.
It’s why Naomi has shared her story ahead of Daffodil Day on Friday, March 24. The annual Irish Cancer Society fundraiser is vital to the care they provide to cancer patients across Kerry each year, including, in 2022, 930 free counselling sessions, 354 nights of in-home Night Nursing for patients in their final days, and 500 free lifts to get patients safely to and from their hospital chemotherapy appointments.
Naomi urges everyone to support Daffodil Day, and she is holding her own fundraiser next month on April 21 for ICS.
She plans to walk 100,000 steps in a day around Killarney, with a coffee morning set for Iguana’s coffee dock at Killarney Racecourse that day also.
“I feel like it will be a challenge mentally and physically and that is what cancer does to you. It is more mentally draining than physically,” she says.
“There is a lesson in everything. Every situation teaches you something. Being diagnosed with cancer at 17 shows you how fragile life is.”
For more information about Daffodil Day visit www.cancer.ie/DaffodilDay. Naomi’s fundraising page is at Just Giving under ‘walk with Naomi for the Irish Cancer Society’.