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Many thanks to Sally-Ann for all her amazing weight watchers clients for giving so generously to HOPEhouse. She is an inspiration to us all and is looking FABULOUS after wining her battle against cancer, she has proved a healthy eating and exercise plan is essential in the fight against cancer. Sally-Ann spent some time in HOPEhouse when she was going through treatment she said ” I could never have anticipated that I would be having respite in Hope House, a beautiful spacious apartment situated in Whitehead with the most awesome view of the sea. But that is exactly what happened, two years ago I was diagnosed with bowel cancer and underwent radiotherapy, surgery and six months of chemotherapy.
It was a challenging time for myself and my whole family and I am now very thankful to be at the other end of that journey and cancer free. It was my husband who first met Dawn, who is the inspiration behind Hope House and she offered us a weekend away from it all in this idyllic setting. At first I couldn’t believe that I deserved any special treatment, I was just plodding through my chemo but when Trevor and I took up the offer, I realised how much pressure we had both been under. To escape from all that and live in a beautiful restful setting for a few days was just what we needed!! The house is so apply named….providing a haven of love , hope and peace at a time when plodding was all I was capable of!!
I was so encouraged by the whole experience that I decided to raise money for the charity through my Weight Watcher classes. I explained to my members what the house was for and they all came on board. I was delighted when after 8 months I counted up our total and my generous members had raised £700!
Money that will be put to a great cause….a door of hope for those navigating through the storm of cancer
Name – Sally-Ann

I want to give thanks for the short break I have had at Whitehead which has been mentally, and physically wonderful and lifted me out of my home surroundings, a precious lift to another world.
By chance I lifted a flyer from the Macmillan Center and my heart was filled with so much joy! joy! joy! Dawn and her team had a vision and I had a pipe dream of ever being in a home, from where I could see the sea. That this has come to fruition has filled me with great joy. Yesterday I walked along the coastal path and I spoke to everyone I met such a joy and far removed from were I live.
I stayed in luxury in this beautiful apartment and treating myself to cream teas and Mauds’ ice cream was a highlight in the beautiful coffee house at the bank. I live alone and do not have much communication with people were I live, hence my joy at the communication I have had with the people at whitehead. Words cannot express my gratitude to all the people who have raised funds to help Dawn and her team. Thank you all for making this happen for me. Now, I hear the restless sea and look at the beautiful views, but tomorrow evening this will be replaced by the banging of car doors as my window at home looks out at a car park. I can see how much Dawn and the team work tirelessly to provide this Haven for those who have been affected by Cancer. I appreciate everyone of you, this is the best stay I have ever had anywhere. I go home well rested and stronger within. “Thank you” x x

Name (Private)


I’m a firm believer that you don‘t realise how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have, and this couldn’t be truer than when it comes to a fight with cancer.

You never forget when cancer comes to turn your world upside down. It was the end of August, I was home for a visit before the start of my final year at University. I can still hear Mam calling me into her room. She had a lump. We both agreed the best thing to do was go to the GP. I think we both wanted to believe it was nothing but in our guts we knew better. My heart broke when Dad phoned me after they had been to the hospital. I stood in my room and cried until I had no tears left. My Mam, my best friend couldn’t have breast cancer. This doesn’t happen. It killed me even more that I was so far away. I was ready to quit Uni and come home, to be by her side. True to form, my mother being who she is, refused to let me come home. I was going to get my degree and she was going to be there when I graduated – cancer or no cancer. The plan was in place for Mam – mastectomy, chemo and radiation. It was going to be a long battle, but a battle I had no doubt she would win. She was the strongest person I knew and there was nothing she couldn’t win.

Cancer was a valiant opponent, it threw up complications at every turn. Through it all, regardless of how much pain she was in, or how horrible the battle was, Mam never took that smile off her face. She faced this battle with such strength, courage and bravery. I was in awe of her. As the war waged on, with each treatment, Mam was winning. It was a great day when it was over. The war was won and we couldn’t have been more proud. I thought that was it. It had come, she had fought it and she had won. All that was left now was to focus on her recovery. Never did I imagine that three years later cancer would come knocking again, or the journey that it would take us on.

The tiredness, the recurrent infections, I put down to being run down between my job and doing my Masters, both full time. After a fight with viral meningitis last October, I was recovering when the hospital called – an abnormality with a chest x-ray needed further investigation. A scan and biopsy later, on November 19th I heard those words, “You have cancer” – Hodgkin Lymphoma to be exact. That day I had been planning my graduation and now I was faced with chemo, fertility treatment. It blew my mind. The only thing I was certain of was that I wasn’t going to let this win. I was only 25, I had too much still to do to let cancer win. I can honestly say it was the hardest fight of my life. My chemo was gruelling, I was the poster child for all the bad side effects chemotherapy had to offer. I got them all. There were times when I was so sick and in so much pain that I just wanted to give up, I didn’t want to do it anymore. And each time I fell, each time I wanted to give up, Mam was there to pick me up again. She had got through it – so could I.

I don’t know if it’s because Hodgkin is rare in Ireland, but I have yet to find a single support group for it, or for young adults. It is so frustrating. When it happens, you want someone who understands, someone who has been there and can answer the questions, someone who has had the same treatment plan, someone who has come out the other side.

It was this yearning that led me to a Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin support group on none other than Facebook – and it was there that I was first introduced to Hope House Ireland. Throughout my treatment I formed a bond with the lovely Dawn, who had this knack of knowing when I was having a bad day and would send me the loveliest emails. I loved seeing the pictures from Hope House Ireland and hearing the latest updates. One day I was going to see it for myself.

After fighting for my life, on June 27th this year (2014) I went into remission. It’s the most incredible feeling when your oncologist utters the words “No presence of cancer”. Cancer had come into our lives for a second time and Team Connolly had triumphed again. Cancer most certainly messed with the wrong divas!!!

Ten weeks later, Mam and I headed north of the border to finally meet the person behind the emails and the place behind the pictures. What a weekend we had at Hope House. It truly is the most beautiful place – so calm and relaxing and just what we needed. I could have sat forever by the window and just looked out at the sea. I have always found water so therapeutic.

Cancer most certainly is an awful disease. It is the hardest battle anyone can face. It tries to destroy lives, but what I have learnt is that the human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it. Cancer not only unveils diseased cells, but also strength, love, determination , courage, bravery. Even on bad days, you are stronger than this disease. I also believe that when this awful thing happens, something equally good comes along – and for me it is the people who have entered my life – my lymphoma family. An elite club no one wants to be in but once you are, you have an extraordinary new family, where no one fights alone. I am incredibly proud that I can call myself and Mam survivors, and incredibly lucky that this disease put some very special people into our lives.


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