Massive response to online appeal

€180k raised online for popular teacher's cancer treatment

John Reidy & Sinead Kelleher

The generosity of the people of Kerry and further afield has helped bring new hope to cancer patient Miriam Joy and her husband, Pat Fitzgerald.

The Castleisland couple were forced to set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds to fight Miriam's cancer after being told that the best treatment option for her is immunotheraphy, which can only be accessed privately for Miriam's particular type of cancer.

The family came up with the idea of a GoFundMe page to help save her life.  The page went live on Saturday, and by Tuesday afternoon it had raised in excess of €180,000. The huge sum has astounded the couple but, most importantly, it will give them a fighting chance.

"This is our last throw of the dice. It has given us a chance. Without this money we had no chance," said her husband, Pat.  "Doctors didn't want to tell us about the treatment, as they knew we wouldn't have the money." Miriam was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in May 2017. The family had been told that it was treatable.

"When it was first found we were told it was found early and they were optimistic. It has been a slippery slope since," said Pat.  Miriam has undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, all to no avail, and the cancer has spread to her brain and lungs, making it an even tougher battle for the 32-year-old teacher. Despite this, she is putting on a brave face.

"She is great. She puts on a wig and gets out. She is tired, but she is in good form," said Pat.  "We never expected this," he said of the GoFundMe page. "We are really happy. It takes the focus off our problems.

"We just can't believe it. We are humbled by it." Miriam is originally from Abbeyfeale and is a teacher at Dromtrasna National School. Pat is a Castleisland native and a teacher at Cullina National School in Beaufort. They have two sons, Noah (10) and Joshua (5).

The couple are surrounded by a large family, and they all have joined forces to help Miriam and Pat during this difficult time.  That includes Miriam's parents, James and Bridget Joy, who live in Abbeyfeale; and siblings, Rachael, Eoin and Damien, who are all close by. Pat's parents, John and Karen Fitzgerald, live in Castleisland, close to his four sisters, Lorraine, Sarah, Aoileann and Úna.

Miriam's immunotherapy treatment will cost a staggering €7,000 every three weeks for an indefinite length of time, so the couple need as much funding as possible.  The couple and their families had been saving for the treatment but ultimately realised just how difficult it would be to raise all of it on their own. This led to them seeking the public's help.

In a statement on their GoFundMe page, they said that they were doing this for all of the family.  "The turbulent course of Miriam's treatment has led her to this point where she feels she must now share her story," it read. "All of this is for one reason only, and that is to be able to live happily and healthily with her husband and two boys."

The family had set a target of €120,000, but this was reached in just 48 hours, and funds are still coming in.  On Tuesday afternoon almost €180,500 had been raised. In total 2,260 donations has been made to the couple. The majority are small donations and funds can still be donated on 'The Miriam Joy cancer fundraiser' on Go Fund Me.