Sitting down to tell your family and friends that you’ve been diagnosed with cancer must be a daunting moment. A moment almost impossible to prepare for. A moment of dread. A moment of fear.
Most people struck with serious illness tend not to worry about themselves too much when receiving such news and then having to share it.
Your spouse, your children, your parents and your friends all flash through the mind before sparing a thought for yourself and what lies ahead. Not for you, but for them.
In December 2007, Tramore resident Brian Fanning found himself in that very position. Married to Anne and a father of Lily (10), Anna (8) and Tommy (3), Brian had just been diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer.
His good friend Mick O’Meara, with whom he’s kayaked many seas and rivers for the past 25 years, spoke about the moment he learned of his friend’s illness.
“Dumbstruck,” he began. “I was just completely dumbstruck. Brian, one of the lads, one of the fellas I go for a pint with in the Vic, as fit a fella as I know, a good family man, telling us he had cancer – I just couldn’t believe it.”
Despite going through four cycles of chemotherapy, and even with the tumour successfully removed, Brian sadly wasn’t out of the woods.
Another tumour was identified in his thyroid gland, which required further surgery in January 2009. Brian was then forced to go through internal radiation treatment. But cancer and all its draining side-effects did not defeat him.
“Thank God, he’s 100 per cent again now,” said Mick, who is currently training with Brian to paddle between Rosslare and Fishguard to raise funds for the South East Cancer Foundation’s (SECF) Solas Centre.
“Brian wanted to give something back to the Solas Centre, and this is his way of doing it,” said Mick, referring to the support Brian received from the SECF during both his illness and recovery.
“The South East Cancer Foundation was just fantastic the whole way through with Brian. It’s be actually impossible to put a value in what they did to help Brian and his family all the way along.
“And supporting them the way we are through the Solas Paddle was just a no-brainer as far as we were concerned. They’re just a brilliant, brilliant charity and you could never do enough for them.”
As men who both clearly relish the water, take pride in their fitness and savour a challenge, paddling across Saint George’s Channel perfectly fits Brian and Mick’s collective profile.
“We’ve done it before,” said Mick, referring to their 50-mile crossing in 2002, completed in 10 hours and 17 minutes, the fastest ever paddle between Rosslare and St David’s in Wales.
“The aim this time around is to go even quicker, hopefully completing the paddle in nine and a half hours, which is going to require an average speed of five and a half miles an hour.”
The duo has been in training for the crossing for six days a week since last November, paddling a range of distances to get both arms and lungs pumping.
“We’ve had sessions where we’ve gone from Tramore to Bonmahon and back, from Tramore to Hook Lighthouse and back.
“And then you’ve got to put in the sprints during other sessions – a minute on, a minute off – to help develop speed. It’s tough but it’s very enjoyable – we both love it!”
So when should we expect the record-breaking attempt to hit the water?
“We’re aiming to do the crossing in the first, second or third week of June – it all depends on the tides,” said Mick.
“Everything’s been well thought out and planned – you don’t leave anything to chance when you’re crossing a busy channel like the one we’ll be on. You can’t afford to be ad hoc about it.
“We’ll be informing the Coast Guard and the relevant authorities once we set off and we’ll be travelling fully equipped with flares and a VHF radio.
“We’ve handed out sponsorship cards provided to us by the SECF, had a bucket collection in the Regional Hospital last week so hopefully we’ll end up raising a good few bob for them.”
Corporate sponsors for the paddle are welcome, Mick added. Any company who wishes to financially support this epic venture to the tune of €1,000 will win a half day’s kayaking along the stunning Copper Coast as a reward.
“We’re delighted with any donation, be it a couple of Euro, be it a few hundred, a grand – it really doesn’t matter how much,” said Mick.
“Cancer is something which affects nearly every family in Waterford and supporting the Solas Centre is way of supporting the whole community.
“This is Brian’s way of saying thank you for everything the SECF did for him – and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
Mick concluded: “The main point of this crossing is to let people know that there is life after cancer, that’s the main story here. It’s not all bad news and diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a life sentence.” Best of luck to Brian and Mick ahead of their big paddle!
For further details, call Mick on 087-2686529 or Email