therapist Nadine Dabbagh’s world as she knew it came crashing down just over two years ago when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer at just 29 years of age.
Now, the Belcarra woman has decided to put what was a terrifying and dark experience to good use, to help other people by shining a light on the work of two of the region’s leading cancer support services.
Ms Dabbagh’s cancer journey began in April 2012 and it was at a time when she could rightly have expected to be enjoying the full of her health.
Originally from Balla but now living in Belcarra with husband James Cunningham, Ms Dabbagh had just recently trained for and successfully completed a marathon.
So when she started to feel tired and unwell, she at first put it down to the fact that her rigorous training programme had come to an end. However, when her health continued to deteriorate, she knew something was very wrong.
“I remember I finished up work on a Monday and called my boss and told her I was going to my house and packing a bag and going to A&E,” she recalls.
That trip to A&E quickly led to Ms Dabbagh being referred to specialist cancer services with a diagnosis of bowel cancer.
“I was 29 years of age when I was diagnosed. They don’t usually see something like that in someone so young. It was so scary - so dark and shocking - the world just stopped,” she remembers.
Ms Dabbagh immediately started on an aggressive treatment plan to save her life.
It was during this treatment, while undergoing radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery, at University Hospital Galway and later in London for further treatment, that she came to learn about, and experience first hand, the incredible work of Cancer Care West and Rock Rose House.
In May 2012, she moved for five weeks to Inis Aoibhainn, a ‘home away from home’, operated by Cancer Care West in the grounds of UHG.
The house provides accommodation for people undergoing cancer treatment at UHG and the facility has been designed specifically to promote a calm and relaxed atmosphere so the residents can focus on their recovery.
For Ms Dabbagh, Inis Aoibhainn was a real lifeline.
“God bless their patience as I was not the easiest person in the house,” she joked. “The service was just ‘wow’. It was like staying in a hotel and they looked after everything. I could leave the house and go straight for my treatment without having to travel on top of everything else. It was amazing.”
Following her treatment, Ms Dabbagh started using the services Rock Rose House, Castlebar.
The centre provides a wide range of services and support to people with cancer and their families.
“It became my anchor as I got used to trying to fit back into ‘normal’ life,” she explained.
Now, two years later and facing a much brighter future, Ms Dabbagh says she wants to highlight the work of these services and raise funds to support their work.
“Cancer Care West and Rock Rose House became my safety nets and they guided me when I couldn’t see the path on my journey,” she said. “This is my story but tomorrow it will be someone else’s story too, and I can give something back now for someone else who is going to use these services in the future.”
To that end, Ms Dabbagh has organised a fundraiser with a difference - a fun, mash-up of some of the most popular games and quiz shows of all time.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Gameshow Challenge takes place tonight (Friday ) in Breaffy House Resort and will see teams of between 10 and 15 people taking part in a whole host of interactive, gameshow style, challenges.
People do not have to go as part of a team, they can just go along on the night.
There are some great prizes as the event has been very well supported by local businesses and groups, family and friends.
The gameshow will be followed by live music from popular Galway band Kif.
Doors open for the big Rock ‘n’ Roll Gameshow Challenge at 7.30pm. Tickets cost just €15 and are availabe on the door.
For more information on the Rock ‘n’ Roll Gameshow Challenge, contact Ms Dabbagh on [email protected] or telephone (087 ) 7954223.