Client Story: Laura Hennessy ‘I was 38 when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer’


Have you ever heard someone say, I’m like a duck, calm on the surface but underneath I’m paddling furiously….well that’s what  it was like for me getting this cancer diagnosis and going through treatment.

When I say, I don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for purple house, I don’t say that lightly!!!!

I was 38 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer….everyone’s reaction along with my own was, how can that be possible, I’m too young.

Things move pretty quickly once diagnosed and I just got on with it, surgery first then chemo, then radiotherapy, it was all mapped out ahead of me. My GP had suggested I call to purple house but ah sure I was grand.

It was during chemo and a visit to my GP, when I was feeling very low and just completely lost, that she didn’t just suggest it she insisted, she told me to go straight up to the Centre, no if’s, no buts. I think she actually rang them and told them to expect me and that she would check if I went or not.

Am I glad she did!

As soon as I walked in, I sat down with Veronica and was handed a cuppa I just cried and cried and cried. There was an instant feeling of security, safeness, calmness and comfort.

After that I think I was there most days. I availed of the treatments on offer, in fact Mondays after a reflexology or massage session was the only time I felt pain free or had no stiffness in my joints.

I took part in the group relaxation sessions, more often than not falling asleep and snoring but that was ok J

I went swimming with the Centre which was great; we were picked up, brought to the pool, and brought home. Who can ask for more?

One of the services that helped me most was the counselling, which is offered free by the Centre. This was the saving of me; I was so low, so lost. Talking to someone who had seen it all, been through it with lots of people, really knew what she was talking about was a blessing. You put on your happy face and your little show of “I’m grand and I’m being SO positive” for everyone but it is exhausting and many a time I just blubbered incoherently during a session.

Sometimes I would arrive at the Centre, have a cuppa, read or just sit, feeling safe and secure. Other times I would arrive feeling low and would end up crying which was ok, this was the place to do that, no judgement, no comments. People knew you were having a bad day and just left you to it and when you were ready you would be handed a cuppa and choccie biscuits to make it all better.

The practical support offered also made life so much easier. Getting yourself to the hospital 5 days a week for 7 weeks, when you have no family close by and  you are absolutely shattered would have been a nightmare but Purple House picked me up every day, brought me to the hospital, picked me up after and brought me home.

Once treatment is complete and you’re shown the door by the hospital, after a year of appointments, treatments etc. it can be hard to deal with. They warned me about this at Purple House and I thought they were all mad….but no; as usual they were correct so I continued to rely heavily on them and their services.

It was about 2 years after treatment when I started to feel human again that Purple House stepped in yet again to send me down a new path….Dragon Boating

A poster was put in the Centre giving information on the benefits of Dragon Boating for post BC and a group called the Plurabelle Paddlers who were trying to get a team up and running in Dublin. Purple House ferried 8 of us to the open day in 2010 and now in 2017 I’m still at it. With Purple House encouraging me to join up and getting me there, they started me on the path to living again because I really wasn’t. I was living a bit like a hermit; I was terrified of going anywhere or doing anything in case I caused the cancer to come back.

As I was getting better, I was using their services less and less. It was a bit like weaning yourself off something, I couldn’t just stop, they were my security blanket till I was ready to face the world full on again.

I don’t get to visit the center too often these days as I live in Navan but whenever I can, I call in and I get  that same lovely feeling when you walk through the door.

If someone had told me when I walked through the Purple House doors feeling that alone, lost and scared that in 9 years I’d be living in Navan, married to most wonderful man and dragon boating I’d have said don’t be ridiculous.

It is truly amazing how life can turn around with help and support from people who were originally total strangers that I now owe so much to.

Again, I don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for Purple House, I don’t say that lightly but I say that with heartfelt gratitude.

Laura xx

  • Really uplifting story in the face of absolute terror. Thank you for sharing

  • Mairead Ni Nuadhain |

    Proud to be a fellow dragon-boater in Plurabelle Paddlers. And Laura is one of our helms!