*Aisling O’Connor. Photograph: Tom Micks

CLARE Rose Aisling O’Connor has urged people living with cancer to join the Relay For Life community by attending an upcoming Survivors’ Coffee Mornings.

At last year’s Rose of Tralee final, the 25-year old primary school teacher from Feakle brought host Kathryn Thomas to tears and touched the lives of people across the world when recounting her family’s story.

Aisling lost her father Pat in a tragic accident six years ago, while her mother Denise sadly passed away in 2021. Denise received her first breast cancer diagnosis when pregnant with her sixth child, Oisín, and “completely beat the odds” despite being given a slim chance of survival. Unfortunately, she received her second diagnosis in 2020 and as Aisling told Kathryn Thomas, “fought the most incredible fight up until 2021 when she passed away with us all around her”.

Aisling and her five brothers, the youngest of whom is now 19, all still live at home in Feakle and she says they have “never been alone” thanks to their neighbours and friends in the East Clare village.

Speaking to The Clare Echo this week, Aisling recounts, “My whole message throughout the Rose was primarily about my family and then the community. The support of the community really pulled us through our tragedy. Relay For Life is a very powerful community where people can rally around each other, share, have a laugh, have a cry, and hopefully come out of these events feeling a bit better than they did coming in.”

The Relay For Life Clare ambassador will attend a Survivors’ Coffee Morning this weekend in Tulla and is hoping to meet people who are living with cancer. “It’s a community of survivors, a community of families who’ve gone through something. It’s an opportunity to get together and support one another. I think it’s a really special event and I know the coffee mornings aim to do the same thing, providing a space for people going through cancer outside a hospital setting, some place relaxed where they can reflect and chat, have a laugh. I think it’s really special.”

Aisling admits that her family would have benefitted from the support network that is Relay For Life Clare, along with the Irish Cancer Society services which are supported by the charity. “Mam dealt with things maybe differently from how other people would,” Aisling says. “She distanced herself from the word cancer in general so she didn’t reach out and chose not to become part of those communities but now looking at it from the other side, having been involved this year with a lot of the charities and a lot of these groups, I have witnessed so many benefits. I see people going in feeling a bit dejected and an hour later coming out with a smile on their faces with a new lease of life. If we were given the chance to go again, it’s something I would have encouraged her more into.”

Reflecting on her own journey since appearing in the Rose of Tralee, Aisling has enjoyed opportunities such as appearing on the Ray D’Arcy Show and Ireland AM. However the highlight for the Clare woman has been witnessing the impact her story has had on other people’s lives.

“People have reached out to me and said ‘I’ve experienced this loss or I went through this and hearing how you and your brothers have pulled through, it has really given me motivation’. Those messages have been so overwhelming, it’s so humbling to know that something I said or have gone through could inspire to help someone else to get through something, that’s the most special part of the year, the impact I might have had on people.”

Ahead of the first Relay For Life Survivor’s Coffee Morning, Aisling adds, “I don’t know exactly but I have a good idea of what a lot of family members are going through, I saw first-hand what my mam went through and I think whilst mam’s story was ultimately such a sad ending, she really did defy the odds a lot on this journey and there’s an awful lot of hope in her story and our story.

“Sharing that with people that I’ve met at these events has given them a bit of a boost. When I see women going through what they’re going through with such bravery and such vigour is also inspiring to me so I think any way I can give back to anyone going through what mam went through, I’m always just so happy to help. It’s one of my missions this year for sure.”

Relay for Life Clare invites all individuals navigating cancer treatment, living with cancer or cancer survivors, along with their spouses or carers, to attend the upcoming Survivors’ Coffee Mornings. This is an opportunity to gather with others going through a similar journey.

  • February 24th at Cnoc na Caoimhe, Tulla at 10am-11:30am
  • March 2nd at Armada Hotel at 10:30am-12pm
  • March 9th at Shannon Springs Hotel at 10:30am-12pm

The Clare Echo is proud media partner of Relay For Life Clare.

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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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