To mark the Irish Cancer Society’s annual Daffodil Day, Boots Ireland are calling on the public to donate what they can to the charity after research revealed more than a third of people experiencing cancer, either personally or supporting a loved one, don’t feel well-informed.
We spoke with ambassador and beauty writer Triona McCarthy, who lost both her sister and Dad to cancer, to discuss her family's experience with the disease and the importance of self-care.
"My dad passed away from renal cell cancer nearly twenty years ago and it was really quick," explains Triona. "We had very little information at the time. We didn't know who to talk to, we only had dad's doctor - and the priest, actually. He kept visiting although my dad wouldn't have been religious," she laughed.
"There was very little support, we relied on each other."
A few years ago, if you needed medical advice or information, your options were limited to falling down the rabbit hole of Google searches or spending time and money on multiple visits to the local GP. Desperate for even a small amount of comfort or information, Triona remembers seeking out some alternative sources.
"I rang a psychic hotline! Because you just don't know and doctors say 'we can't play God', but we just wanted to know how long we had."
Sadly, a few years later, Triona's little sister Tricia found a lump in her breast and although the 26-year-old sought out medical attention, she went undiagnosed.
"They never did a triple assessment. They found the lump, did the scan, they did the mammogram, but they never did the biopsy," Triona explained.
A year later, while on holidays and wearing an uncharacteristically light top, Tricia noticed that there was blood surrounding her nipple. Once home, she visited her GP in Galway who immediately sent her to get a breast check. By then she was at stage four of the cancer.
Although information was somewhat easier to come by thanks to medical advancements and support groups, the family found it difficult to know who to ask the multitude of questions that would arise during Tricia's treatment.
Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can affect your appearance in a number of ways, which can, understandably, affect the way you feel, Luckily, in that respect, the family were able to band together as they mastered a new hair and make-up routine.
"With Tricia losing her eyebrows and hair and all that - we could actually cope kind of well with that. She loved wearing wigs. My sister Laura is a beauty therapist, I work as a make-up artist so we could deal with all the physical things, drawing on eyebrows and all that sort of thing.
"However, if you don't have that, Boots have all these advisors in now who can help you. Plus, it's the emotional side of things. If you're supporting someone, you don't always know what to say to them or maybe you want to buy them a gift and you're not sure, now you can walk into one of the advisors."
As well as being informed, the beauty writer insists that family and friends of cancer patients need to make sure that they are practicing self-care, in whatever form works for them.
"This is silly but we used to watch the X-Factor with Tricia and we really enjoyed that," laughs Triona. "We were never TV people growing up but when you're lying in a hospital bed and you can't really go out, we enjoyed that so much because it just transported us off to a completely different world."
"I'm naturally upbeat and always try to see the good but sometimes it is difficult," she continued. "Tricia would sometimes be really ill and unconscious for a few days, which was terrible but that show kind of transported us and allowed us to sit together, sitting and laughing with my family."