Zoe’s Story

Our stay at Hope House couldn’t have come at a better time. Over the past 6 years our family have been through more than a family would experience in a lifetime. My Mum & Dad are 70yrs old. Mum had previously had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma twice before and a stem cell transplant that was so incredibly tough on her. It’d been nearly 3 years that the stem cell transplant had given her but now to hear the worst news ever… Mum could no longer have the treatment as before because her bone marrow wouldn’t be able to take it and the cancer would just keep coming back.. They had to stop the chemotherapy and we just had to make the best of whatever time we had. Dad had to retire to become mums carer. His mental health took a downturn it all hit him very hard and with the breakup of my own marriage I just didn’t have the strength to go on anymore.

When we had our wonderful stay at Hope House, this was the most precious time mum, dad and I could’ve had together at one of the worst times of our lives. The peace that came over us was unreal. All our tension eased away. When we looked out at the still sea, a still calm came over us and soothed our souls. How lovely it was to wake up with my mum and dad in the mornings in such a beautiful relaxing atmosphere. It is a wonderful place for a carer to unwind.

What I myself loved the most, was the walk along Whitehead sea front up towards the lighthouse. Just to be at peace away from being a mummy myself for a few days was medicine to my soul.

I can’t recommend Hope House enough. If you are a couple, a family or if like me you just need somewhere special to make precious memories together. I can’t recommend Hope House enough and we can’t thank everyone at Hope House enough for providing this wonderful service.

Hope House truly gives us families affected by cancer a space to breathe. A place to heal the soul. A place to find and have hope to help us cope. We all came away so refreshed from our time there.


Carmel’s Story

Delighted to see that Dawn’s vision and dream for people living with a cancer diagnosis to have a beautiful home by the sea to recuperate in has become a reality and what a piece of heaven on earth Hope House is with its warmth, welcoming, breath taking views and sea air just what my friends Maggie and Teresa needed after battling cancer like the warriors they are and with the help of my amazing sister Teresa the ladies were well pampered and rested thank you to Dawn and all the team involved in Hope House and all who support this charity for making this possible. A little piece of heaven on earth we all leave revived.

Tanya’s Story

My name is Tanya and I was diagnosed with cervical cancer on the 26th April 2016. My world was turned upside down when I got my diagnosis. As a wife, mummy of 3, daughter, and teacher, I thought I was invincible and cancer happened to other people. However I had wonderful support around me which helped me come to terms with my diagnosis. Part of that support came from the amazing Dawn McConnell and team HOPE.

When Dawn found out about me through a mutual friend. She contacted me and offered my hubby and I the use of Hope house whenever we needed it. She continued to support me through the never ending tests and surgery with many words of encouragement. She taught me and helped me stand up to cancer and I knew I could do it because Dawn had done it.

I had a radical hysterectomy and lymph mode dissection on the 21st July 2016. It was a very tough and long operation. Recovery time was anything from 6 mths to a year. It was 6 weeks after my operation when we went to stay at Hope house and it was the perfect time for us. We were able to relax and reflect on the journey we had been on so far. We didn’t really talk openly about cancer in our home as we didn’t tell the kids – I wanted to protect them. So therefore we hadn’t really dealt with my diagnosis ourselves. Until we came to Hope house it gave us the safe space to talk openly about what we’d both been through and what we would do next. There is a real peace about Hope House and that peace gave me a peace – I knew no matter what happened it would be ok.

We had a glorious weekend weather wise and were able to explore the beautiful area around us. Cancer at times felt like an uphill struggle for me but hearing how Dawn and Roy coped with their journey gave me a renewed Hope that helped me cope, shining a light into the darkness of cancer. So I wanted to climb up the mountain/cliff to symbolise how I defeated my own mountain of cancer. We managed it and at the top enjoyed the most beautiful views. I hadn’t been sleeping well prior to coming to Hope House but slept brilliantly there and on both mornings was able to wake up and watch the sunrise. It’s little things like that, that make all the difference in your recovery from cancer.

At Hope house and through our friendship with Dawn I also experience unconditional love. Dawn through all her messages of support and offering Hope house as a place to stay, showed us love. The night we arrived she hugged us and had a wee gift for us both which was completely unexpected but also made us feel loved. But more than that there was a “care package” of bread, milk, fruit etc sitting in the kitchen for us meaning we didn’t have to go out to the shop.

Team Hope and Hope House do so much for some of the most needy people in our society today. When you get cancer you have to give up work, money stops, friendships can fade and you can feel utterly alone and completely overwhelmed with worry for the future. By letting cancer patients and their career/partner stay at Hope house, free of charge, team Hope give practical help and hope to cancer patients like myself.

I have been given the all clear and am now cancer free but my friendship with Dawn continues and will be a life long one thanks to Team Hope’s support. They truly helped me stand up to cancer! My husband and I were so blessed by our time in Hope House that we now want to be able to help others walking the same path as ourselves. There is a famous quote that says “ a single thread of hope is still a very powerful thing”. Hope house have many threads of Hope and I know with continued support they will use it to weave a tapestry of Hope for those facing the biggest fight – the fight for their lives.

Tanya Byers

Elaine’s Story

My husband Steven was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. As a family it was heart breaking but my hubby was really strong though it all. Having 2 small children and having to come to terms with the news we had just received was very difficult. So finding out about Hope House though the macmillian centre at the city hospital was wonderful . I contacted Dawn to sort if we could come stay there and 3 weeks later we were sitting in Hope house. At that time money was very tight for us with all the travelling for his treatments and appointments and we never could have afforded to pay for accommodation that provided such a wonderful place to stay with amazing views of the sea.

Steven loved being by the sea and we were thrilled to hear that we would be able to use the apartment throughout Stevens illness. Our times spent there were wonderful and It came at a time when we needed quality time together to make memories that I will hold onto forever now that he has sadly passed. Stevens time spent at Hope House meant so much to him that his last wish was to have his ashes scattered there and Dawn opened Hope House and put on an afternoon Tea so all the family could be together to fufil Stevens last wish. Not only did it give my hubby a break from his cancer but his diabetes too as his blood levels were all over the place with all his medication but not at hope house his blood levels where perfect the whole time which showed he was relaxed and at ease which was what he needed with all his chemo. All I can
say is thank you to everyone at hope house as it came to us at a time when we needed to spend time away from everyday life and time not to think about the BIG C and treatment.

Many Thanks to all the team at Hope House who run this unique service.


Joanne’s Story

I had heard about Hope House but wasn’t too sure about what they offered and it took me a while to contact them but I am so glad that I did! I was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and had mastectomy, chemo and radiotherapy. I was a single parent with an 8 year old son and really only my parents for support. Unfortunately, I was rediagnosed on World Cancer Day and had to have emergency surgery to remove my bowel as the cancer was now in my bones, skin and stomach with the stomach tumour attaching to outside of the bowel and causing a major blockage. I was now officially incurable. This time my parents had both passed and I felt so alone, my son was now 17.

I made contact online with Hope House and later had a lovely chat with Dawn. I was offered two weekends one for myself on my own and another with my ex partner who has been so supportive since re-diagnosis. I felt I needed time away on my own to get my head cleared but I also wanted to do something nice for my ex partner. Dawn was amazing and totally understood where I was coming from. Shortly after Dawn called me and offered me two nights as someone had cancelled. It couldn’t have come at a better time as I had been feeling quite low. I didn’t know what to expect but whatever it was I was totally overwhelmed with my experience. I found a little piece of heaven on earth and a new friend. Dawn is amazing and talking to her was like talking to an old friend, she is the perfect person to head this charity.

Hope House was so peaceful and calming. It feels like home but a home without any stresses. I fell in love with Hope House immediately. My couple of days there were perfect. I walked around the local village and into the shops and talked to locals. I treated myself to meals in a cafe and I did the walk to the lighthouse. This was such an achievement for me as since my re-diagnosis and surgery I had not been very active. It took me hours to do it I was so uplifted and proud of what I had done that day. I read and crocheted and sat in the bay window and watched the sea and the sail boats. I had time for me with no interruptions from daily life. I felt calm, peaceful, relaxed and re-energised. Those couple of days in Hope House were bliss they allowed me time to not think about my illness or pending hospital appointments. How could you possibly feel scared or ill in Hope House in those beautiful surroundings by the sea? I came back home feeling so much better both physically and emotionally than I had in such a long time. Those few days have me my spark back! I went back with my friend and he was amazed by Hope House and he could see the weight of the world instantly lifting off my shoulders when we arrived there.

I managed the walk to the lighthouse again and finally saw the caves! What a fabulous experience it was. It’s like you are seeing the world with different eyes. You are seeing the beauty and tranquility that most of us don’t get to experience during our daily lives.
I am so grateful to Dawn and her team at Hope House for allowing me to have this experience. It has helped me immensely. I came to the realisation at Hope House that I can’t control my illness but I won’t let it control me either. I came back and started making plans, a thing I would never have done thinking there was no point as I may be too ill or even not here to do them. The time I had at Hope House and the sense of achievement of walking to the lighthouse allowed me to renew my faith in myself and give me confidence to look at life head on. I have started working in a job that I previously only did as a hobby, doing complementary therapies, a couple of mornings a week. I don’t think this would have happened without my visits to Hope House. It is an extremely healing place and it has captured my heart completely. I honestly don’t have words to describe how special Hope House is. It would be such a loss if it wasn’t there as I know I cannot be the only person who feels the way I do about it. Dawn had a vision and I am so grateful her vision became a reality and I don’t think she will ever realise just what she has achieved and how she has helped so many people in the same situation as myself.


Shelter from the Storm by Gary

The only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it flow with it . . .and join the dance. ~Alan Watts

If there is anything positive in having cancer, it is the many wonderful and inspiring people you meet along the way – our healthcare professionals and organisations like Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie and Cancer Focus.
However, the seemingly endless cycle of hospital appointments, reviews and treatments can be physically and emotionally draining. Moreover, when treatment is finished, there can be the uneasy feeling of ‘well, what do I do now?’
I know, from personal experience, the devastation wrought by a cancer diagnosis, not only on the person affected, but the whole family. I have an incurable form of leukaemia and I’ve undergone surgery for transitional cell carcinoma. Just before Christmas, a CT scan revealed an ‘abnormality’ in my left lung. At the time of writing I’m waiting on another scan. My life seems to consist almost entirely of unpleasant (and necessary) examinations, scans, blood tests and poking with sharp, shiny metal objects.
But you have to discover your own way of coping with a cancer diagnosis. You find out so much about yourself and what you are capable of. Some people decide to share this, to help others going through a similar experience.
Hope House must be the best-kept secret in rest and recuperation for those of us living with cancer. I had been meaning to visit Hope House ever since I picked up the Charity’s leaflet in Marie Curie Day Therapy.
I travelled on the train from Belfast Central Station, reasonably certain I knew what to expect from the photographs and publicity material. I’m being honest when I write that nothing prepared me for the breathtaking beauty of the location. Dawn’s lovely sister Jackie met me at the apartment and made me very welcome, giving me a quick tour before leaving me the key and contact details. Within five minutes, I felt like I’d known her for ages!
My intention was to work on my writing but I spent most of the first day just sitting, staring out the window at the ever-changing sea. I woke early the next morning after a restful sleep; it was still dark and I sank into a comfortable chair, cup of tea in hand, watching the ferry glide ghostly up the lough, lights piercing the dawn mist. Later that morning, I walked along breathing in the fresh sea air and I felt the stress and fatigue of the last few months melt away. Oh, I also managed to get some writing done! I saw frolicking seals and watchful cormorants and enjoyed conversations with dog-walkers and others simply taking the air while enjoying the view.
The downside was, of course, I had to go home. Restored and refreshed, I reluctantly caught the train back to Belfast on Sunday afternoon. I’ll certainly be back.
The founders of Hope House Ireland are Roy and Dawn McConnell who have been married for over 30 years and have one daughter, Leah. In February 1990, at the age of 34, Roy was given the news that he had Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and was given a 30 per cent chance of survival. After a year-and-a-half of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, Roy surprised his doctors when he made a full recovery. He remained in remission for 21 years.
In February 2012 the couple were devastated to learn that Roy’s cancer had returned. A journey through the treacherous landscape of chemotherapy began again. However, one year later, Roy received the all-clear and is currently well.
In 2015 Dawn was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a gruelling surgery followed by six months of chemo. Such an experience would overwhelm most couples but the McConnells are inspirational in their positivity and determination to channel their experiences into a way of helping others living with cancer.
The vision for Hope House originated when, during Roy’s treatment, the couple were offered the use of a seaside apartment, free of charge. They found the peace and tranquillity to be wonderfully restoring, a place of refuge during what Dawn describes as a dark storm in their lives. Thus inspired, Dawn envisaged a sanctuary which could provide free holiday accommodation for older adults.
The couple began the Hope House Charity in October 2013 and a vigorous fundraising campaign commenced. The objective was to rent somewhere by the sea; a place of rest and recuperation for people living with cancer. They chose a beautifully appointed apartment on Whitehead Promenade, complete with stunning sea views and walks.

Emma’s Story

My mum and I first heard about Hope House in 2016. Up until then I hadn’t been aware of anywhere who offered something for adults after a cancer diagnose. The first time we stayed there was after I had completed all my treatment for breast cancer and I was suffering terribly from fatigue; my mum at the same time was also recovering from her treatment for breast cancer and had not long finished treatment for leukaemia and was feeling drained and a bit low. I knew my mum would really benefit from a wee break away. We confirmed a date which coincided with one of my mums hospital appointments in Belfast. We met Dawn at Hope House and she gave us the warmest hugs and filled us in on the local area, showed us around the house and said there was fresh bread, milk and a large chicken pie in the fridge for us and lots of food in the cupboard, she immediately lifted both our spirits. We had the most relaxing few days and it really was a peaceful haven.

My mum had one of her bone marrow biopsies at the hospital on our first day there which she normally finds painful and distressing but she said was much easier to handle this time as she knew she was going back to Hope House afterwards to sit in the window chair overlooking the sea. We had such a lovely few days spending time together relaxing and not having to worry about anything.

The second time we stayed was in July. Unfortunately when it was booked we had no indication that my mums health would then deteriorate so quickly. Sadly my mums breast cancer returned very aggressively and closer to the time of going to Hope House, we were unsure if she would be too sick to travel to Belfast.

But she was determined to go, my sister also came with us. When we arrived there was a gorgeous bunch of flowers for my mum which made her eyes light up. Even though my mum struggled to walk any distance, many times during that stay we walked down to the bench and huddled together watching the sea. My mum always loved the sea and it was the most relaxed, content and at peace I had seen her in the last few months. We had such a special few days spending quality time together and took lots of photos of us on the bench and in Hope House. Little did we know these would be the last photographs taken together as my mum sadly passed away two weeks later.

If it wasn’t for everyone at Hope House my sister and I would not have had the chance to spend one last girlie weekend with my beautiful precious mum nor have had such precious treasured photos for memories of our last ever weekend together. I cannot stress how important this was for us and without Hope House this would not have happened. Hope House is a lifeline for those who are suffering from cancer and its awful treatment and for family members and carers, it gives a much needed escape away from the routine of hospital appointments, and the physical and emotional rollercoaster which a cancer diagnosis can bring.

Hope House provides a beautiful peaceful setting where there is space to recuperate and rest and where precious lasting memories can be made which is one of life’s priceless most important gifts. I will be forever grateful to everyone for allowing us to experience this and I hope that many many more families will get to stay at Hope House and benefit from the amazing generosity and kindness that you experience from a visit to Hope House .

Robert & Joan’s Story

Humbled, Privileged, and Blessed. A big Thank You to everyone who made this dream of Hope House happen and to Dawn and the team who oversea this great work. For us it has been a tremendous blessing we always wanted to have a house by the sea – thank you for making this happen in such a beautiful place words cannot describe how wonderful it has been.

Lyndsey and Thomas’s Story

We have just spent 2 days in this amazing building that is Hope House. It is hard to put into words what this has meant to us you can take yourself away from everything that a cancer diagnosis brings and rest and recuperate on the recliners watching the waves roll in. There are uninterrupted views and the wee haven itself is beautiful.. it is clear how much love and passion that’s been put into making it just perfect for the guests that will benefit from it. Pure luxury.

Pat and Bill’s Story

We returned to the new Hope House emotionally fatigue and needing a pick -up and as soon as we stepped out of the car it took our breath away. As each day dawned our strength grew which has set us up to face our ongoing journey. We thought the view from the Whitehead House could never be beaten, but Gasp! What a vision from every window in the new Hope House.
We now returned home renewed and strengthened emotionally ready to face whatever challenges come our way.
A massive thank you for facilitating our every need and allowing us to experience the comfort of this beautiful home.

Lynne’s Story

Thank you for allowing us to spend time in such a beautiful place the weather is great but to be honest even in the wind and rain this place would still be heaven on earth, the place is so clean, cosy and finished to a high standard and Dawn treats you like an extended family. Well Done to you all for making a dream a reality and to share it with others. So whether you’re coming to terms with cancer, recovering from treatments or making memories this is the place for you to come.