Fantastic night on Wednesday last at the launch of Catherine McGovern’s book ‘Myelona My Life’. It was a brilliant success and a real tribute to Catherine. Catherine’s book is now available locally for €12.50 and I would encourage everyone to purchase a copy. I was asked to make a contribution to the book and was delighted to do so. I have copied below my piece for Catherine’s book;

“Michael, I had my MRI scan yesterday which showed up two tumours on my spine…I’m in terrible pain…my news is not good at all… can you call to me for a chat”

Words in a text I dreaded to read from a woman who can only be described as inspirational. The world that I deal with every day is often cynical and sometimes ruthless. However when you see courage and bravery expressed as a celebration of life without any agenda, it leaves you humbled and honoured just to know this human being.

Catherine McGovern is such a woman. I come across many people who have experienced terrible pain and loss, who have had to deal with personal tragedy in all kinds of circumstances. How people respond to these difficulties varies hugely.

Catherine has never allowed her illness to diminish her joy in life or her indelible spirit. Her passionate, witty, fun-loving personality shines through all the time. No matter how she is feeling inwardly Catherine always manages to look stylish and sharp. How often we heard that Catherine was laid low from the effects of treatment only for the door of Corcoran’s or Bannons to swing open, Catherine bounce through and bring the place to life with her infectious enthusiasm.

It is my privilege to know Catherine for many years. Ironically cancer brought us together. Catherine, had a special bond with Conor Kennedy, a great buddy of mine who was suffering from cancer. Both from Skehana, Catherine gave Conor fantastic support during his illness and when he sadly passed away, our friendship continued and grew. When Catherine was herself diagnosed with cancer, I was devastated.

Since then I have seen Catherine deal with this awful condition with such courage and positivity. As the disease progresses it impacts on everyone connected to the person; family, friends and community. The medical and professional requirements increase. Normal routines are shattered and replaced by daily disruption and additional costs. However this is insignificant compared to the emotional trauma that is experienced by family.

Catherine’s husband Kenny and her three adored children, Shane, Katie and Amy have had to come to terms with Catherine’s illness and at the same time continue to provide all the love and support that is needed. Kenny gave up his job to become a fulltime carer and his dedication and commitment to this wonderful woman is evidence of a love that is deep beyond words. Catherine’s children have travelled a long road since this illness began. There have been several periods of remission when hope grew and family life resumed; there have been times when hope seemed lost but each time Catherine responded and continued the fight. Resilience and determination have been the hallmarks of this struggle and during the depths of this journey, she has always remained exuberant, with a constant smile and a positive perspective. Part of this commitment to life has seen Catherine offer huge ongoing support to other cancer patients. I will always remember when Catherine spoke by invitation at the Mayor’s Ball in the Anner Hotel, Thurles, in 2010. She captivated her audience with a powerful, incisive, vivid and emotional description of her personal journey. She has visited people with cancer regularly and encourages optimism and hope in everyone. In so doing Catherine has refused to let this condition get her down. She has become a beacon of hope and empowerment to everyone she comes into contact with. Her insights and courage constantly inspire others and her refusal to succumb to despair is driven by a deep faith in life and positive energy. Her personal faith has been tested throughout this time but Catherine has always trusted that everything in life has a purpose and that strength comes from the inner peace provided by positive faith.

Further evidence of this was seen in the fundraising appeal that took place in Two-Mile Borris earlier this year. Such is her popularity that the entire community got involved to raise funds. I was not at all surprised by the reaction in the community itself. Catherine is so highly respected and admired in the area that the expression of support was unprecedented.

At a time like this we reflect on the nature of life and death; its transient and seemingly random disruption of lives. Why do good people seem to suffer such pain and difficulty as their loved ones look on helplessly? Human existence is fragile and unpredictable. So when you see a woman such as Catherine facing this uncertainty with courage, passion and a positive outlook, all we can do is admire and be inspired by this incredible bravery in the face of the ultimate adversity.