A woman who has had cancer seven times is among those currently undertaking a walk from Derry to Crosshaven for the Irish Cancer Society.

Redhead 300 set out from the Guildhall in Derry on Saturday last. The walkers plan to reach Crosshaven in Cork on Friday, August 18, a journey of more than 300 miles. Crosshaven is home to Ireland’s only Irish Redhead Convention, hence the name Redhead 300.

The team aim to raise at least €5,000. This is being done in support of the ongoing efforts of the Irish Redhead Convention which has raised over €30,000 for the Irish Cancer Society since the inaugural festival in 2010.

Among the walkers is cancer survivor Shirley McEntee.  Before setting off from Donegal Town on Monday morning, she told the Donegal Post: “I have had cancer seven times in the past 12 years. It began in my shoulder and then my neck. I was five years clear which is usually a significant milestone in terms of whether cancer is likely to return.”

However, Ms McEntee found herself back in hospital in 2009, almost exactly five years to the day from being told she was cancer free. Malignant melanoma had spread to her lung.

“I got part of my lung removed and later that year I got my adrenal gland and ovary out,” she said.

Unfortunately, Ms McEntee’s cancer journey was still far from over.

“Six weeks later, on New Year’s Eve I felt a lump in my neck,” she said.

“By New Year’s Day it was massive. It kept growing and growing and I couldn’t turn my head. I went back to the doctor and they couldn’t treat me because I had too much surgery. They told me I had six months to live because the cancer was coming back too fast.”

At that point, Ms McEntee was offered an experimental drug called Ipilimumab.

“I took it,” she said. “Whoever was looking down on me, it worked. Three months later I got remission.”

Despite the positive outcome, this was a difficult period for Ms McEntee.

“I know this is something that other cancer survivors will understand,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe the cancer was gone because they hadn’t cut it out. It was still in there as far as I was concerned. It took me a long time to accept that I really was in remission.”

While all this was going on in her life, Ms McEntee continued to work in the emergency control room for the Ambulance Service.

But there was still more to come.

“They found a 4.5 inch tumor on the left side of my brain,” she said.

Ms McEntee was in the hospice and almost at death’s door when her medical team got a call from Professor Gupta in Limerick.

“He told them to get me into an ambulance and to get to Cork,” she said. “I got a shunt put in. That was three years ago and I am still in recovery from that.”

Ms McEntee said recovering from the latest cancer was horrendous. But the Redhead 300 walk is proving very therapeutic.

“It has done me so much good, mentally, physically and emotionally,” she said.

Support

Among those to see the walkers off from Donegal Town on Monday morning was Leas Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council Cllr Noel Jordan.

The councillor believes that it is a very worthy cause and he is highly supportive of the walkers.

Cathaoirleach of Donegal Municipal District Cllr Tom Conaghan was also there on Monday to see the walkers off and wish them well.

Organiser Fergal Barr wishes to thank Kee’s Hotel, the Abbey Hotel and the Allingham Arms Hotel for putting them up during the Donegal stages of the walk.

He also wishes to thank the guest walkers who joined them at each stage, as well everyone who has supported them to date.

More information and updates can be found on the Redhead300 Facebook Page and on Twitter.

Anyone who would like to donate can do so at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/redhead300

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