LISA Power is, in many ways, the typical Irish mammy. She might ask herself – in moments of quiet reflection – how life changed gears so quickly. It was only a blink ago, when the 15 year old girl met the boy of her dreams, and the meaning of life seemed so clear and so certain. Now, she’s a mammy to three children, with the man of her dreams beside her, in the middle of a fight of her life.
Born and raised in Lismore Park – the quintessential Irish housing estate – Lisa was an outstanding basketball player and student of The Mercy Convent. She spent her teenage years hanging around Decies Avenue with her friends Susan Molloy and Susan Jacob, a place where she would meet her future husband, and well known professional cyclist, Ciarán Power.
“Will you go around the block with him…over the estate behind the factory,” Lisa recalled with a smile. “That’s how it all began.”
Lisa married Ciarán in 2001 and spent her formative years hopping between a job in Waterford Crystal and travelling the world with her husband, who was beginning to make a name for himself on the world stage. Along the way, they would have three children – Keegan (15), Hayden (12) and Ella May (11).
In 2013, such was her zest for life, Lisa ran the Dublin City Marathon. In the aftermath, she felt a pain in her back and understandably put it down to the gruelling 40km run.
“I stopped running for a couple of weeks and as soon as I resumed, the pain returned,” Lisa explained. “I was certain that it was down to my bra or the top I was wearing or the way I was running and I just let it go.“
At Christmas time, the pain was still there and Lisa told Ciarán that she knew that ‘something wasn’t right’. She went to a doctor and received the news that she had Breast Cancer.
“My first thought was about the kids,” she said. “I said it to the doctor there and then ‘I need to go home…I need to see them’”
Telling her children, and her mother, was the hardest part of all.
“My mother did the typical Irish thing…as soon as I walked in she asked if I wanted a cup of tea,” Lisa said. “I just looked at her and burst out crying. She said that it was going to be okay and I just said ‘no…it’s not. We broke down together.”
Lisa has her own way of describing the five years that followed.
“It’s like clouds,” she said. “Some days they’re white, some days they’re grey and some days they’re black…but there’s always clouds.”
Despite admitting that it’s a cliché, Lisa says that her time with breast cancer – where she endured a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and more – was a potent reminder about the value of life.
“You learn to appreciate life so much more,” she said. “In the past I would have gotten on to the kids about little things…I would have been overly interested in cleaning and putting things away. Now, I don’t…I couldn’t care less. If people are coming into my house, they are coming to see me, not the house.”
During this time, Lisa’s sister attended a house party in Kilmacow and met Marcella Sweeney, an inspirational cancer sufferer who took her illness and turned it into something formidable.
“Marcella rang me and asked if I’d be interested in joining the Waterford Dragon Warriors,” Lisa said. “I saw what they were at and the old competitive side in me reared its head and liked what it saw.”
After an intensive, and very painful road with Breast Cancer, Lisa was told that it was gone, but then, a few weeks short of her five year Cancer anniversary, she felt a familiar pain in her back.
“I was telling everyone but they were putting it down to different things, none of which were cancer,” she said. “I began to think myself that maybe I was overthinking it until I visited an Osteopath one day and he recommended that I get an MRI.”
The MRI confirmed what Lisa feared in the deepest, loneliest part of her mind – the cancer was back, and it was more aggressive than ever.
“The doctor rang Ciarán the next day, and then she rang me,” Lisa said. “She told Ciaran that the cancer was back and that he would need to be there for me. She told us that my whole spine was essentially covered in multiple mastitis. The next day I met with my Oncologist and they told me that I was looking at ‘ten years’.”
Lisa is a strong woman, and says that she’s glad that it is her – and not any other member of her family – that has to go through this. The clouds have returned, angrier than ever, and with them comes despondency.
“There was never a point where I thought that I couldn’t do this anymore…until the other day,” Lisa said. “This time I know the severity of it and I know the places where it is. I know I will be living with cancer for the rest of my days and in that moment I thought “what the hell is life all about?’”
The darkest clouds of all will never be too far away but beneath them, Lisa is still fighting.
“I started looking up clinical trials online,” she said. “I had to throw everything at this because my children need me and I need them.”
Right now, there are trials in America, Germany, Asia and more but not all of them can be done while Lisa is on the current course of chemotherapy and radiation that is working for her.
“There will come a time when they will stop working…the body will get immune to it,” she said. “When that time comes, we really want to be ready.”
Ciarán suggested a Go Fund Page, so they could have enough money saved up for the day when Clinical Trials could be their best hope. Lisa shut down the idea immediately.
“I’m a private person and there are so many fears associated with doing something like this…you don’t want people to think you’re begging…you don’t want people looking at you differently,” she said. “It was an extremely difficult thing to do.”
Ciarán persisted, eventually saying that if Lisa wouldn’t do it, he would set it up himself.
On April 16, Ciarán set up the page for his “beautiful wife and best friend” Lisa. His target, seemingly improbable in his head, was €100K. At the time of writing, it’s now at €71K, thanks – according to Lisa – to Ciarán’s army of friends and supporters worldwide.
“Bradley Wiggins made a donation and put up a bike for raffle,” Lisa said, still not quite believing the reaction to the fund. “But, as I go through the donations…it’s the small ones that are really hitting home for me. The people who don’t have it, but want to give something.”
The purpose of the money is to exhaust every possible hope for Lisa and her family. They’re the epitome of every other and when pressure is applied, Waterford people get behind their own. The response has been incredible, and the money is already being used to help with Lisa’s treatment.
“We’re going to get a Bemer Mat, which is something I’ll sleep on to help circulation and reduce s the spreading of cancer cells,” Lisa said. “They’re €6000 so obviously it would have been difficult without the help of everyone who has visited the fund.”
In addition to the Mat and the anticipation of Clinical Trials, Lisa is also buying CPD Oil and Hemp Oil every week – an expensive habit that provides enormous relief to the pain and strain of cancer treatment. The fund, and the generosity of others, is fuelling this fight.
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