*Lorraine White. 

CANCER SURVIVOR Lorraine White is preparing for her daily ritual, a swim in Ballyalla Lake, as she speaks to The Clare Echo about her story of survival.

“We broke the ice with our little pick-axes in early January during the big freeze so we could go for a swim,” Lorraine recounts with a laugh. It’s this resilience and defiance which has helped her overcome a few tumultuous years following her diagnosis.

Not long after being diagnosed with lobular breast cancer in 2019, Lorraine went on a retreat at Shannon Estuary Way which is run by Lorraine’s cousin Rosie McMahon. After a plunge into the Atlantic off Doolin Pier, Lorraine caught the bug for outdoor swimming, “I have never looked back.”

Fitness enthusiast Lorraine is part of two social swimming groups called the ‘Ballyalla Bravehearts’ and the ‘Lough Bunny Hunnys’. She has since fully recovered from cancer but admits there are some side-effects and symptoms which continue to impact her life such as bone density issues, night sweats and fatigue. The cold-water swimming, she believes, helps keep these issues in check.

“If I haven’t swam for four days, I can start feeling those symptoms coming back,” says the mum-of-three. “It also definitely benefits the ‘mind monsters’. I ride a motorbike and I do cold swimming, and in that situation in the cold water or on the motorbike, you can’t think of anything other than the present moment”.

Lorraine was in the height of her health in July 2019 when she received the shocking news of her cancer diagnosis, noting that she had never previously spent time in a hospital only to give birth to her three children. “To get a cancer diagnosis at 39 was so bizarre, an awful shock to me, my husband, kids and family.” Thanks to catching the diagnosis early, Lorraine was able to have the tumour removed without the need for a mastectomy. However, she recounts the “debilitating” process of undergoing three months of chemotherapy and 23 rounds of radiotherapy.

Lorraine admits it took her time to come to terms with her illness, even blaming herself at times but the greatest outlet ultimately was connecting with other people.

“You’re wondering why, why why? You’ll cry, you’ll shout, you’ll give out, and then all of a sudden I said, ‘I want to live, I don’t want this to take me. I have three kids, I have a husband, I love my life’ and then straight away I decided to put it out there, speak about it online and talk about it”.

‘Talking about it’ was among the focus of this Friday’s Survivors’ Coffee Morning, which took place at the Temple Gate Hotel in Ennis at 10:30am.

Last year, Lorraine became involved with Relay4Life and admits to being “blown away” by it. “All of a sudden I was in a room with people with the purple T-shirt on who had gone through what I went through. You know they’ve had cancer and they came out the end of it, they’re the same as you. I was absolutely blown away by it”.

Lorraine describes the Survivors’ Lap at the beginning of the 24-hour event as “so emotional”. “All the Survivors gathered at the start line, and we all just looking at each other and we’re not alone. We walked around in quietness and it was so moving, so touching, so emotional. It’s hard to describe it unless you’ve been to it”.

As well as being involved in Relay4Life, Lorraine is also the County Clare ambassador for 100k in 30 Days, which raises awareness and funds for the Marie Keating Foundation.

Speaking about her journey to becoming an ambassador, Lorraine explains, “You’re essentially on your own and it can be a very lonely and dark place. I turned to my Instagram and reached out online to real people, I needed factual instant information and I wanted to know everything that was going to happen to me as I started going through treatment. I got an awful lot of interaction with people and in turn I was able to help loads of people. It’s almost like a counselling service, I’m helping people who helped me and in turn I can give advice”.

Lorraine is urging people to get involved in Relay4Life and enter a team. “There’s not one person I know who hasn’t had a family member or friend who has been touched by cancer or lost a loved one to cancer. Relay4Life is a 24-hour event and everyone who turns up is there for someone else or themselves and it’s an amazing initiative about creating awareness and funds. There’s so much happening on the day, activities for kids, face-painting, music, it’s a really nice family day out and I’m screaming from the rooftops for people to come out and support it”.

Relay For Life Ennis takes place on June 17-18, 2023 at Tim Smythe Park, Ennis. To enter a team, visit https://www.relayforlife.ie/event/ennis.

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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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