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Cullyhanna community rallies for cancer-stricken mum

July 4, 2016

The close-knit community of Cullyhanna has rallied to support a young mum from the village who is battling cancer for a second time by setting up a fundraising campaign to help pay for treatment and costs associated with her illness.

Mary Sheridan-O’Reilly (43) had just finished a year-long treatment for breast cancer – having been diagnosed on her 42nd birthday in May last year – when she was told the disease had returned.    Mary and her husband Gerard, a well-known and popular couple, are parents to six children and this latest heartache to visit their young family has been widely felt by their close friends and neighbours.  As a way of offering support, a campaign aimed at raising £25,000 has begun to help pay for cancer treatment not available locally and help ease their financial burden.

The ‘There’s Something about Mary O’ Facebook page was launched just over a week ago to highlight Mary’s battle and keep well-wishers informed of her progress and that of the campaign.  To date, more than £4,000 has been donated through a JustGiving page with private donations also being made to the fundraising committee.

A number of initiatives to boost the campaign are already planned, including a 5k run/walk, which will take place in Crossmaglen on Saturday 13th August, organized by the running club of which Mary and Gerard are former members.

A ‘Loose Change’ initiative is also underway with donation buckets available in local businesses and workplaces.

Those behind the campaign have praised Mary’s positivity and determination, describing her as “inspirational”.

Information on the ‘Something About Mary O’ Facebook page expresses how highly thought of both Mary and Gerard are: “Mary is a vibrant member of the Cullyhanna community. Both herself and her husband Gerard are great characters and well loved. They have regularly fundraised for charitable organisations and therefore their family and friends have set up this non-profit organisation. This time, it is them that deserve the support and generosity from us.”

Explaining the background to Mary’s latest battle with cancer, the post reads: “In May 2015 Mary was diagnosed on her 42nd birthday with breast cancer. Mary remained extremely positive throughout her chemotherapy and surgery, many call her an inspiration. Mary was just returning to normality when again on her [43rd] birthday she received the dreaded news that her cancer had spread to her liver.  Mary is currently receiving eighteen weeks of full body chemotherapy and long term monoclonal antibody treatment. Unfortunately side effects such as extreme tiredness, mouth ulcers, nausea and hair loss are now taking its toll.

“Mary and Gerard are parents to six children, ranging from four up to thirteen years. However they are no strangers to heartache after losing their baby to a congenital heart defect in 2006. Baby Eoin joined the other angels in heaven at just two days old. Throughout all this heartache, the couple are hugely positive and are truly inspirational people. They are best friends and have recently celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary.

“This young, vibrant lady deserves the best of care and treatment to return her to improved health. Our fundraising will help to cover costs of alternative remedies and further treatment unavailable locally and not routinely covered by NHS.  Please support us when you can.”

The messages of love and support that have accompanied the donations have given the couple huge comfort and updates on the Facebook page convey how overwhelmed both Mary and Gerard are by the amazing response to the JustGiving campaign.  With the momentum continuing to build, and the wider south Armagh community getting behind the campaign, it is hoped the fundraising target will be reached soon.

Donations can be made via the Facebook page or at https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/TheressomethingaboutMaryO.

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