The GAA community in Glenties will undertake a fundraising drive to assist the sister of the former Naomh Conaill manager Cathal Corey as she attempts to have a cancer drug made available to suffers in Northern Ireland.
Cathal’s sister Ailis - who is also a niece of former Donegal manager Brian McIver - is battling with Hodgkins Lymphoma and needs in the region of £8,000 a week for the next year for a drug that can help her. She is battling the National Health Service across the border for the life-saving cancer drug.
This weekend in Glenties, there will be a bucket collection on Saturday and there are plans being put in place a charity variety concert, walk, cycle and run in the coming weeks. There’s a 25 card drive on in Leo’s Tavern on Sunday and Cathal Corey is also running a draw with tickets priced at £10.
Cathal, from Kildress, Co Tyrone, managed Naomh Conaill as they won the 2010 Donegal Senior Football Championship and took the team the final of the Ulster club championship the same year, where they lost to Crossmaglen Rangers.
Currently, Brentuximab is available to English patients battling Ailis’s condition but not to those living in Northern Ireland. Ailis first learnt about the drug after being told at the end of May - on the day of her 30th birthday - that a second gruelling round of chemotherapy had not been successful in reducing her cancer.
Patients suffering from the condition in England can apply to a special Cancer Drug Fund for the medication, which is still relatively new and very expensive, but, unfortunately, that is not the case for people living Northern Ireland.
“My consultant advised me that there was a new drug for Hodgkins Lymphoma which was proving very effective”, Ailis told The Tyrone Times. “Unfortunately, however, the drug is not available in Northern Ireland for patients on the NHS. In that way, it was very disappointing and frustrating to be told there is a drug which could really help you, but you can’t have it.
“I suppose you just think you are further away than ever from battling against this. We were also told that it could cost between £60,000 and £100,000 to have the drug, depending on how many cycles you need which is, effectively, putting a price tag on your health.
“It’s disappointing that while the drug is available to patients in England on the Cancer Drug Fund, we don’t have the equivalent here. We have been told there are intentions to have a similar fund here, but intentions are unfortunately not good enough to patients who have this type of cancer right now.”
Ailis was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in November 2008, when she was aged just 26. After suffering a variety of symptoms she describes as “unremarkable” - including tiredness and itching - Ailis attended her GP and, following a series of tests, the devastating news was given to her.
Keen to highlight the symptoms of the disease, Ailis wants other people to be aware that common complaints which can often be put down to a busy lifestyle can unfortunately be something more serious.
“I suppose I just thought I was working too hard, or putting too much in, like a lot of young people, maybe just burning the candle at both ends”, she says. “The itching at night became unbearable at times, but I thought it was probably something like the washing powder or something I had eaten. It was the lumps on my neck which brought it to my attention, though, and so I went to my GP the day after the All-Ireland Final in September 2008.”
Following her diagnosis, Ailis attended Laurel House at Antrim Hospital for chemotherapy which made her extremely sick and physically exhausted.
In July 2009, she was given the news that the treatment had worked and that her cancer was in remission, but, unfortunately, after taking a pain in her arm last September, further tests showed it had, in fact, returned.
Ailis says she is extremely grateful to all those people who have donated their time and money to help her campaign - the Ailis Corey Support Fund, which can be found on Facebook. Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has also promised to row in and support the fund.
“All we can do is try and bring my case to the attention of the politicians to let them know I am fighting this cancer for the second time after treatment,” Ailis adds. “It is a waiting game and I just don’t have the time to wait.
“What we have achieved in the space of a week with our campaign is amazing, people are pledging offers of time and money and I have been overwhelmed by the support of local people. If the politicians won’t do their job, we’ll do it for them!
“I was also incredibly honoured to have the support of Mickey Harte, especially given what he is going through himself at the moment. His support really got the ball rolling and I can’t thank him enough.”
You can find out updates about Ailis’s condition - as well as any fundraising events - by visiting the Ailis Corey Support Fund Facebook page or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org