Recently, I was going into a farmer meeting and met a friend who I hadn’t seen since way before COVID. I was delighted to stop to chat. Cathy O’Sullivan and her husband, Kevin, were Macra peers of ours long ago. It was good to catch up.

We missed so much during lockdown while we kept our distance from others. We were prevented from caring for people who were hurting. Individuals had to get on with things on their own. They had to deal with trauma alone. In a few minutes’ conversation, we exchanged personal news. I’d had a malignant tumour removed from my abdomen and avoided having treatment. Cathy had come through breast cancer. We’d never heard about each other’s health issues.

While Cathy was sick and on treatment, she decided to write some poetry to chart her journey and possibly even publish it. During Cathy’s cancer journey, she found herself needing support and was pointed in the direction of Cork ARC Cancer Support House. She found the support and encouragement that she got there invaluable. Sometimes it is difficult to admit the fear that lies deep within to your loved ones. It is raw and unforgiving. Cathy writes:

“For fear can swallow you, and leave all reason outside of your grasp when you need it most. Trust is a big ask in the deep end of the unknown.”

You feel you might not be coping well. You need reassurance that what you’re feeling is normal and, most of all, that it is typical for one with a similar diagnosis. We are told that every cancer journey is different and individual to the person. That can make one feel very alone. There have been many times in my life that I’ve wished to be ordinary, with no surprises. In reality, there are very few families that fit into this box.


After Diarmuid’s transplant journey; I empathise with Cathy and with loved ones who are trying to support and understand. Night time is when the bad thoughts come and you feel you can’t process it all. It’s back to asking “Can I actually cope with this?”

an ideal stocking filler for anyone who might be on a difficult path or facing into treatment

Cathy writes: “All week long I have not been able to sleep. Lying awake in the dark, dealing with my darkest thoughts. My unfocused gaze fixed on the dim glow of the calving monitor.” As her journey through chemotherapy begins, she experiences: “Rat night- more like a cat fight, I thrashed and turned, shivered and worried.” As I turned the pages of Cathy’s book, I could feel her coming to terms with her cancer and enduring the treatment that she feared:

“Yet, it is part of the process. Like a field being ploughed. To prepare for new growth. New Beginnings.”

Pouring her thoughts onto the page and finding the words was therapeutic for Cathy. You can feel her saying, “I’ve got this and I can beat it. I’m winning!” But she says it differently:

“I’m out in the field bringing in the cows, serenaded by birdsong floating from the trees.” Nature can sooth us and encourage us to keep on going.

Cathy’s book is an ideal stocking filler for anyone who might be on a difficult path or facing into treatment.

Through Your Doors Again by Cathy O’Sullivan is available at

She hopes to raise €10,000 for Cork Arc Cancer Support House. The book is €19.99.

Cork ARC is a safe haven for people with cancer and their loved ones.

Free range blessings

Last week, I travelled to the Irish Farm Centre in Dublin to say a few words on the occasion of Margaret Farrelly’s book launch. Margaret has written a book called Free Range Blessings. She has a quirky way of writing. The book is filled with advice for anyone wanting to be successful in business.

Margaret started with 150 hens. Today the business has 160,000 hens. Margaret met her own share of adversity. Her way of picking herself up and getting on with the next challenge, whether in life or in business was with humour and steadfast determination. She also has a deep faith which permeates everything she does. Margaret and her husband Leo always believed that together they could solve any problem, big or small, and that is just what they did!

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