by Louise Doyle
A GORTAHORK cancer survivor will feature in a hard-hitting documentary examining the difficult road to treatment and recovery for Donegal patients.
The Irish-made documentary, ‘Turas na hAilse – The Cancer Journey’ will be screened on TG4 on Wednesday, April 19, at 8.30pm.
The programme follows the lives of cancer patients from Donegal as they board a bus and make the five-hour journey of over 200 kilometres to receive life-saving radiotherapy in University Hospital Galway, their nearest treatment centre.
When in Galway they take residence in Inis Aoibhann for the week, a haven away from the hospital where people help each other and rejuvenate as a group.
‘Turas na hAilse – The Cancer Journey’ follows them as they make this journey together, exhibiting resilience, generosity and spirit under difficult – but unifying – circumstances.
Tess Ni Ghallachoir, from Glasserchoo, hopes the documentary will help remove fear for anyone who is currently going through cancer treatment, or who will in the future.
Having attended a routine mammogram appointment in 2015, Tess was asked to go for a second screening after something untoward was discovered.
Subsequently diagnosed with cancer, she underwent chemotherapy treatment, followed by radiotherapy treatment in Cancer Care West in Galway.
The Donegal News first met with Tess last summer. Now, almost one year on, the brave woman has finished her treatment and has come through reconstruction surgery, with the help and support of her close family, friends, and her two rescue dogs, Frankie and Tess.
Speaking ahead of the subtitled documentary, Tess said she hopes her involvement will help allay fears for others who find themselves in the situation she once faced.
“The documentary followed me through my treatment in Galway. I was filmed going down to the radiotherapy treatment room, and I hope the filming of the machines will help remove fear for others. I am hoping the programme will go some way to removing stigma and fear.”
Tess admitted that not having access to radiotherapy treatment in Donegal was a source of discontent for many at the centre. She spoke of how when she was interviewed for the programme she was angry about the long journey cancer patients from Donegal had to make in order to access the life-saving treatment.
“I was angry and annoyed about that, and that will come across in my interview. Donegal is the forgotten county. There were five people from my parish receiving treatment at the same time as me.
“It’s very daunting, to leave everyone you know and love and go to a strange place for treatment.”
Tess said she suffered with depression following her treatment.
“I fell into a deep depression and I was suicidal. Depression is very common after cancer because during cancer treatment you are surrounded by people, but afterwards you are very much on your own and that is when things start to manifest. I had a great friend in my sister-in-law, who really helped shine some light for me.”
She has urged as many people as possible to tune in and watch the documentary.
“What I have learned is to appreciate life. The whole experience changed me, but for the better. My advice to everyone is to enjoy their life and not to be drawn on the little things that don’t matter.
“It was a very difficult road, but you get through it and you do come out the other end. I am a much stronger person now because of the whole experience.”
Resilient and optimistic, Tess is now ready to take on the world again and will soon jet off on the adventure of a lifetime to
New Orleans and Louisiana to visit her friend, Sandy.
“I have so much to look forward to,” she said.