*Sláinte an Chláir. Photograph: Paschal Brooks

SERVICE USERS OF Sláinte an Chláir have admitted they would be lost without it and have labelled it “a life-saver”.

During The Clare Echo’s visit to Sláinte An Chláir, we met a group of people who are living with cancer or are cancer survivors, as they prepared to partake in a meditation session in Kilnamona.

They explained what the centre in Kilnamona means to them. All participants were afforded anonymity.

One local woman describes the service as a “home from home”. “I’ve been coming four years. They drive me to all my appointments, I have no transport. Beyond that, it’s just the support of having people to talk to”.

She admits that she would be lost without the service. “I had to give up work so this gets me out and I have a support network, and they’re friends more than a support network”.

The group consensus is that the welcome you receive on arrival means it’s a seamless process to ‘fit in’ in Kilnamona. One service user tells us she started visiting Sláinte An Chláir earlier this year. “I was very sick after my treatment so I wasn’t able to come and friend of mine who has been coming here since it opened was telling me about it and she took me here. I haven’t looked back since. I look forward to every Tuesday coming here, I find I have an awful lot in common with the people here. I can discuss it. My family think ‘I had cancer and I’m cured now and I’m over it’, but that’s not how cancer goes because every time you find a lump you’re thinking, ‘is it back again?’ It’s very welcoming and [the management] are fantastic.

“I’m very relaxed and Marie will do the meditation and I really enjoy it. It takes me out of what I’m thinking before I came, it’s so relaxing. And it’s like a big family.”

The longest-running visitor of Sláinte An Chláir among the group has been coming to Kilnamona for 12 years. “I’ll continue to come as long as they have me,” she quips. (“We will, we’ll have you!” bellows the sound of another voice in the background.) “I can honestly say it’s a life-saver. When I came it was in its infancy and it just grew, and grew and grew. The services it provides, and I’ve never been anywhere where we were respected so much…

“It’s somewhere that I came when I was scared – and you’re always in the company of people that felt the same – but just laughed and smiled and we did silly, crazy things and took us out of ourselves. There’s just so much, there’s the reflexology, the meditation, exercise classes, but the most important thing of all are the people that come here. I know quite a few of the ladies because I’ve been coming here a long time, but I think it’s a lifesaver for us. Well it is for me, I don’t want to get emotional but that’s all I can say really. It’s an oasis, it’s like being a member of a club you never wanted to join. Now, we’re all in it together.

“The people volunteering here are incredible,” she says. (“Great cooks!” chirps in another.) “They do so much work, they give up their time. They’re so kind and they put up with us.” (group laughter)

Another person tells The Clare Echo they have cancer in their brain, and currently are awaiting results. “I don’t know how long I’m coming here. It’s been months and it’s just gone by like that. I didn’t remember how unwell I was when I came here a few months ago and the difference now, the Tuesdays just give you focus for your week because it can be very hard doing the cancer journey. You’re all the time waiting for results, you don’t know what the future holds and to come and speak to people openly here is just great. I was really in a bad way and I would be lost without it.”

Another person adds, “Everybody is welcome. And it gives you space too as you don’t want to be loading your family and you want to go on with as normal a life as possible outside but here you can pay attention to your cancer. It’s healing just being here and the treatments are fantastic; I do the exercise class and the reflexology are fantastic – but it’s the place and the people that really make it so wonderful.”

If you would like to make a donation to Clare Cancer Support, Sláinte An Chláir, visit https://www.idonate.ie/cause/clarecancersupport.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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