‘If you don’t do it, you’ll be dead in a fortnight’ Connemara woman told

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galway daily news mairead nevin
Mairead Nevin Larkin and family

A woman from Connemara has spoken on radio about finding out she had a tumour on her brain in 2020, and that she suffered a stroke during the operation to remove the tumour.

In an interview broadcast on Iris Aniar on RTÉ RnaG, Mairéad Nevin Larkin from Seanadh Phéistín explained that she started getting headaches in 2014.

But although she queried it with doctors, it was not a major concern until 2019 when her symptoms got worse.

She said that she is the type of person who is ‘always busy, always going’ and that her kids are her life.

Mairéad said that she got up out of the bed every morning even if she was in pain, did ‘what needed to be done’.

“In 2019 I was walking up the stairs in Dunnes, Terryland, and the feeling went out of my leg. I waited a minute and it came back but then bit by bit as the weeks went by after that I started getting pain down my arm,” she said.

“I was getting pins and needles in my leg, in my hand, up into my face.  Then I started kindof dribbling out the side of my mouth.”

Mairéad went to the doctor, and although they discovered that she had a disc out of place in her neck, that didn’t explain her symptoms.

She was put on the list for an MRI – an appointment that never materialised in the end, and Mairéad’s symptoms worsened again.

“I didn’t know what was happening to me really.  My mind was going.  I’d forget where the kids were.  I was taking hot things out of the oven with my bare hands.

“The feeling was gone from my hand so much that I’d have the dish in my hand for ages before I’d feel the pain.”

She went to the A&E, but they were not too concerned, nor was the neurologist that she saw shortly afterwards in December 2020.
In January 2021 Mairéad decided to get an MRI privately, although she thought twice about it because of the cost.

“He said I was fine, that there was nothing wrong with me.  I started crying.  I asked him if he was sure. He said he was, that I looked so well, wasn’t I out walking and all that.  I told him that I was but that I didn’t feel well, that I wasn’t right …

“That I was forgetting where my children were, and didn’t know if I was coming or going.  My walking had gone very bad.  I knew by then there was something wrong because I was doing very strange things at home.”

In January 2020 Mairéad decided to get an MRI privately, although she thought twice about it because of the cost.

“I said to myself, I’m not spending that money.  If it had been for John or for the kids, I would have done it straight away, but no, for myself I had to think about it ten times!”

The MRI showed that there was a tumour on the brain, and she said she was both shocked and also relieved to have an answer.  Her neurologist was also shocked.  The first thing she thought of was her children.

“I had nothing in my mind except would I see my children grow up?  That’s the first thing that came to my mind.  I couldn’t bear thinking of not seeing them grow up … Sure we were only getting started, we hadn’t even been to the Aran Islands yet!”

Mairéad was told she would have to go to Dublin for an operation, and she told Máire-Bríd Ní Chualáin in the interview on Iris Aniar that once people heard about her situation, all the cards and good wishes she got from the community gave her great solace and courage.

“People started sending mass cards and lighting candles. That changed everything for me. I said to myself, I have to fight this. Even when I was in the operating theatre in Beaumont, I felt that everyone was with me. I wasn’t crying or anything.”

The operation was very high risk, with a possibility of paralysis or death, but there was no other choice.

“I said to myself, maybe I shouldn’t get this at all, but he said that if I didn’t get the operation, that I would be dead in a fortnight.”

The tumour they removed was 5 cm X 5cm, and when Mairéad woke from the operation she had no sensation in her left side as she’d had a stroke.

The doctor was confident that she would regain the use of her leg, but was not too sure on her arm.

She had a long road ahead yet, although she says she didn’t realise that at the time. She thought she would be gone for a fortnight, but it was almost six months in the end.

The most difficult part was being away from her husband John and her children especially, Abigail, 10, and Joshua, 8. She said that she wasn’t sure she would make it through.

“I had letters written and everything for everyone.  I had been sick for so long, and I was weak by the time I was going up to Dublin, and I just didn’t know if I’d come through it.”

“It was tough for the kids.  Mammy left for a fortnight and didn’t come back for six months.”

Mairéad is doing well now, although she needs help with some tasks.

“I’m well, but when you are depending on your daughter to help you to close your shoe, or to tie up your hair, things I should be doing for her but she’s doing them for me.

I’m doing well but no two days are the same.  Maybe I’d be very well one day, and a bad day the next.”

Mairéad thanked all those in the community in Conamara who had been so supportive to her in her illness.