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Marcella Holland Spooner- RIP

This is a piece we published in June 2020, on local lady Marcella Holland-Spooner. Sadly, Marcella has passed away after a long battle with cancer. It was a hugely popular piece at the time on the lovely Marcella, and we are sharing it now in her memory. Our sincere condolences to all of her family and friends.

Archive: June 2020-

Local lady Marcella Holland, who many will know from her career in the Carrigaline Court Hotel, has been going through a remarkable chapter of her life in battling cancer. Here, she kindly shares her story and gives hope to those going through health struggles.

Hi everyone,

Well where do I start?

Firstly a bit about myself. I was born & brought up in London, by Irish parents & I moved to Cork 30 years ago, living in Riverstick, then Carrigaline & now finally living in Minane Bridge.

I have 4 children, Rachel 30, T.J 26, Danielle 25 & Tommy 14 and not forgetting my granddaughter Ciara, who is 1 years old and my husband Steve Spooner, who has been my rock, helping me these last few months.

Some of you may know me from working at the Carrigaline Court Hotel Leisure Centre for over 20 years now, starting out as a Lifeguard, then a Swim Coach & also one of the Duty Managers in the club. I love the Carrigaline Court Hotel and it is a great place to work and since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, everyone - managers Jerry and Keith and staff, have all supported me which has made a huge difference.

Marcella Holland Spooner. Pic: Siobhan Russell

I went for a routine mammogram, my first one ever, on Thursday 10th October 2019. It was a breast check in the mobile unit behind Collins SuperValu, Carrigaline. I only went in for the mammogram as my appointment was at 1pm, my usual time for a lunch break, so I decided I might as well, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered! When you turn 50, you get sent an appointment for your first mammogram. It took about half an hour & the staff were very nice & I went back to work after.

The following Monday, I received a letter to tell me I had a follow-up appointment in Breast Check, Cork, regarding my mammogram results, for Tuesday 22nd October.

I didn’t worry at the time, even though I had felt a small lump a few months beforehand, but it was not painful & I didn't think it was anything. I had another mammogram and an ultrasound, only realising then, that something was wrong. I had a biopsy and I was told it was cancerous. I was still calm at this stage and my husband Steve was waiting in the waiting room.

After another mammogram, I was then seen by the surgeon and consultant Louise Kelly, who confirmed I had breast cancer and needed to start treatment ASAP! I broke down then. I had to wait on my biopsy results and come back the following week 29th October.

Biopsy results confirmed I had breast cancer and it was fairly aggressive, and because of the type of breast cancer I had and the tumour size, I would be having chemotherapy first, then surgery afterwards.

I’m 'Her 2 Cancer Positive' so chemotherapy works well with it first. When I was told I had breast cancer, I broke down, because firstly you think; am I going to die? And then you think about your kids, or what stage am I at with cancer? Breast Check and Louise Kelly are fantastic and so supportive. I would be lost without their support and advice in the beginning. I was Grade 3 Breast Cancer Her 2 Positive.

My next meeting was with my oncologist Professor Seamus O'Reilly, South Infirmary. He is such a lovely man and he explained to me that I would be having chemotherapy for 4 months, 3 weeks apart, then surgery on my breast, then radiotherapy and had to go on a drug Tamoxifen for the next 5 years. In between bone scans, MRI, CT scans, the list goes on.

I started Chemotherapy on the 4th December 2019 at the South Infirmary Infusion Unit. I have 2 different types of Chemotherapy and I have to have an injection called Herceptin, every 3 weeks for my type of cancer. It wasn’t that bad, the first time and I was home after 6 hours. Thankfully I got no sickness, but extreme tiredness. I decided to shave off my hair myself, before it started to fall out, and had my best friend Siobhán with me and you know what? It wasn’t that bad at all! The wig is fab and I bought it at Versacchi Hair Loss Specialists, Cork. I also have heart echoes, due to the type of treatment I’m on, as it can affect your heart as well.

My last Chemotherapy finished on March 24th and even though it was tough I looked upon it as my friend helping me to kill off all those cancer cells inside of me!

I met with my surgeon Louise Kelly again on the 22nd April, and my surgery was the following Monday 27th April. I was due to have a full mastectomy, but because I responded so well to Chemotherapy, I had a lumpectomy, removing half of my breast instead.

When Chemotherapy finishes, you have to have treatment for 6 weeks afterwards. Surgery went ahead on Monday 27th April in the CUH. All went well, and the staff, nurses and doctors were just brilliant. I cannot say anything bad, as they treated me so well, and are doing a fantastic job and my surgeon Louise Kelly did an amazing job, glad to say I am recovering and healing well. It’s been 4 weeks since my surgery and I’m half way through my treatment. I‘m just waiting to hear from the doctors in Radiotherapy as to when I’m to start on my next stage of treatment and how long I will have radiotherapy for etc.

It basically takes a year of your life in treatment for breast cancer, so I just told myself I’m putting this year on hold! When Covid-19 came into place, I was warned that it would affect my chemotherapy and surgery, but I’m glad to say all is good so far and my husband Steve has been doing all the shopping etc. so I have been careful if I’m going to the hospital for check-ups etc.

I met with my surgeon on Tuesday 12th May and my results from chemotherapy and surgery are brilliant. 4 lymph nodes were removed in surgery and all came back clear. Chemo did its job & totally shrank my tumour to 3cms, so my pathology results came back all clear and to hear the words "Cancer is no longer in your body/breast" is amazing! Radiotherapy is just an extra assurance to get rid of any lingering cancer cells. I look upon treatment always as a good sign, and one step closer to getting better.

If I can help anyone with my story, It's to remain positive at all times, well I usually am, but you will have your moments! Cry if you want, but put back on those boxing gloves & give that cancer a good beating! From day one, when I was told I had cancer, I swore I would fight it & I would not give in, no matter how hard and tough it got along the way. Take control, let the doctors take care of your treatment and listen to them and you take care of what you can do! I’m still not finished yet but I will get to that finishing line and carry on with my new lease of life.

I have so many people to thank along the way for helping and supporting me. Firstly, to Steve; for all your support and love and keeping me going - my rock, thank you, love you. My family, my friends especially Siobhan and Jenny, my neighbours. And lastly, my sister Sinead who has been a rock to me and all you lovely ladies, all helping each other, going through breast cancer, I'm amazed by all your strength.

One bit of advice: If you find something, please get it checked out. Please do go to your mammograms, don’t be scared, better to deal with it and get it treated sooner. Keep positive and you can conquer anything that life throws at you. Onwards and upwards and I hope my story can help someone and don’t be afraid, there is plenty of support if you need it.

I’m 7 months down the road and if I have to go another 7 months so I will, this cancer story is only a chapter in my life and one that I will not be repeating. Take care everyone and appreciate all the small things in your life as that’s what matters most.

(Thanks to Siobhan Russell also for her work on this piece).

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