Christmas Newsletter


Ovarian Cancer patient, 54 year-old Anne Herlihy recently visited Breakthrough's ovarian cancer researchers Dr Sharon McKenna and Jennifer Quinn and in the Christmas Newsletter talks about the impact this had on her:


Okay... so, I’m dying. I know it – and if you’ve seen me on TV singing with Tommy Fleming or in the papers – then you know it too. My days, as they say, are numbered. Ovarian Cancer. Stage 4. Terminal.

I’m writing this for one simple reason....because I believe in the work Breakthrough Cancer Research is doing with a fierce passion. And I believe that by supporting Breakthrough it will give fresh hope to every woman and girl at risk of ovarian cancer. I’ve seen some of the ovarian cancer research projects underway at Breakthrough and have even had the chance to talk to researchers Dr. Sharon McKenna and Jennifer Quinn about their work. And what I saw left me with real hope for the first time since I was diagnosed.


Not hope for a magic bullet cure for myself, of course. Sadly, I know that will not come in my lifetime. But hope for the 3,500 or so women right here in Ireland, and the 2 million or more around the world, who will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer over the next 10 years. And hope for all their children and grandchildren too. I believe in my heart that Sharon and Jennifer’s research is the best hope out there for so many of these women... and that bringing it forward is down to you and me. It could save their life, give them fresh options that aren’t available today, or even simply buy them more time. And I can tell you right now, as someone walking around with a death sentence on her head...more time is the most precious gift of all. Let me tell you what it means to know you don’t have it. It means not knowing which of my grandchildren I will see make their Holy Communion. It means not knowing if I’ll be here come Christmas Day. Or if I am, will I make it to the next one? It means, most of all, not being able to plan ahead for anything.


And I used to be a massive planner. All my life I made plans. I was the kind of person who couldn’t wait for things to happen, so I’d make plans for them instead. I’d start planning for
Christmas in July. But I can’t do that anymore, because you can’t make plans if you don’t know if you’ll be around for the very thing you’re planning! For a long time I really struggled with this. But then I realised it was distracting me from actually living the life I have. So that’s what I do now... I live for today. And I live for the day the researchers at Breakthrough find a treatment that will give families like mine the hope they need. 

I think that Breakthrough’s ovarian cancer research promises the most of any research I’ve come across, and believe me when I tell you, I’ve looked into all of it!  When you’re diagnosed with cancer you go straight to Google and search for breakthroughs and trials. Which is exactly what I did. And that’s how I found Breakthrough. It was just before World Ovarian Cancer Day and they were holding a seminar in Cork for ovarian cancer patients, with information from doctors, scientists, dietitians, the lot. So my husband and I attended. I went in with an open mind, but I wasn’t expecting much to be honest. How wrong I was! We toured the facility where Dr. Sharon McKenna works. She gave a talk about her research in ovarian cancer. I spoke to the scientists. I saw cancer cells in petri dishes. I saw the innovations Breakthrough have come up with. And I saw all the tremendous work they’re doing to find new treatments for ovarian cancer. And I was absolutely humbled by it all. Afterwards in the car my husband asked me how I felt, and I said: “That was better than any medicine!” Because it was the first thing that had given me hope that someone, somewhere could beat this terrible disease and give women like me a chance.

Sure, the day I posted on Facebook about that, I thought it would just be between me and a few friends. I had no idea I’d end up on the TV and the radio, and what have you, talking about it all. But, that’s life, as they say. I started with just two items on the list, but after a couple of conversations with friends and family, and a few twists and turns it ended up something like this...

  1. Host an ABBA night – this started as an idea for a house party, but ended up with 300 dancing queens packed into Geary’s Bar in Charleville.
  2. Learn to sing “Both Sides Now” properly – well that one was supposed to involve a few local singing lessons, but ended up as a live duet with Tommy Fleming on Saturday Night with Miriam!
  3. Take a Driving Lesson – done and dusted. Never to be repeated!
  4. Meet the President of Ireland – DONE! Someone at Áras an Uachtaráin spotted my list on Facebook and then invited us. What a day.
  5. Live to see Breakthrough Cancer Research make a breakthrough in ovarian cancer – I’m in awe of everyone at Breakthrough Cancer Research. I would love to be alive to see this day – I think I’d pass away in peace then.


We can all make my 5 happen by supporting cancer research by clicking here. This is not just my bucket wish list but will help grant the wishes of women and families all over Ireland who want a cure for this disease.


Together we can grant this Christmas wish.


Breakthrough's Research: Preventing the return of chemoresistant ovarian cancer


By understanding the role that the ‘Autophagy’process plays in cancerous cell survival, Breakthrough-funded researchers, Dr. Sharon McKenna and Jennifer Quinn want to give women all over the world new hope for a longer life.




We have outlined the different stages of our research in the below image:



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