FROM the moment a West Cork woman was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, her ambition was to spread awareness of its often vague symptoms and empower women to get to know their bodies better, so they can catch it a treatable stage.
Sadly, Catherine Kingston lost her four-year long battle against the disease in 2017, but now her daughter is keeping her mum’s legacy going with her family’s annual fundraising event.
The sell-out event takes place in De Barra’s Clonakilty tomorrow night (Friday March 6th) in aid of OvaCare.
The charity hold patient days, online support and coffee mornings countrywide which are free of charge and open to ovarian cancer patients and their families.
Catherine’s daughter and local musician Paula K O’Brien said you don’t know such groups even exist until you need them, and described OvaCare as a great source of support and knowledge for them.
Catherine, she said, was a proud Bere Island woman, and a nurse in Clonakilty Hospital, where Paula now also works.
She was diagnosed in 2013 and was aware from the beginning that her time was limited. She spent a lot of the next four years undergoing treatment in the South Infirmary Hospital but importantly Paula said she never felt like ‘just a number’ and was always treated as an individual.
‘She would nearly be counselling others in the hospital, and bringing them out of themselves. She was a great people person.’
During her four years of treatment, there were 12 months where she was quite well and there were also moments of fun to be found in the midst of the sadness.
‘I remember she lost her hair which was a huge thing and her friend took her to Cork in her sports car to get her hair shaved! She had great support but it was a tough couple of years.’
Catherine was married to Martin, also a musician, and along with Paula, was mum to Orla (Harrington, Rossmore) and Deirdre who works with the Irish Cancer Society in Dublin.
The family organised the first OvaCare fundraiser on Women’s Little Christmas in January 2017, which Catherine was well enough to attend. She spent two weeks in Marymount before passing that June.
Paula has high praise for the care and compassion shown in the Hospice especially when it came to helping Catherine’s grandkids.
Catherine and Paula’s daughter Aoibhe (now 19) had an especially close relationship.
‘They had a great social worker who really spoke at the children’s level and took the fear out of it for them. As I was a nurse I felt I was expected to have a lot of answers but I wanted to be a daughter and they really helped.’
This is the Kingston’s fourth fundraiser and they’re on their way to raising €20,000 for OvaCare with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity.
Paula insists the night isn’t a depressing one but is in fact very positive and is all about empowering women, about knowing your body and being aware of subtle changes, and about being there for each other.
The theme is ‘a woman that inspires you’, and everyone must dress as someone who does that.
All band members will be dressed up and all of the songs will be covers of songs written/sung by female artists.
Paula herself is going as Bonny Tyler! She’ll also perform as part of her group, The Kates which were formed at last year’s event and which is named after Catherine.
‘So many people help put this night together so I want to thank all the local musicians, DeBarras and the local community in Clonakilty for their continued support.
‘Obviously it never gets easier but knowing you can help others and educate them, does help. It’s nice to think of mum’s spirit being there on the night and her looking down on us from somewhere,’ said Paula.
• The Kates will perform in Crane Lane this April, and De Barra’s in May.