Majella O'Donnell inspired many with an open and honest talk at the Breast Cancer Awareness afternoon at McElhinneys on Thursday 26th October.
“It’s tough but it’s doable,” were the comforting words from Majella today as she opened up on her breast cancer journey.
Majella was joined in the McElhinneys lingerie department by brave women who had endured their own battles and by followers who admired her strength and willingness to share her experience.
“Always be aware of the changes in your body,” Majella advised, “go to your doctor, even if it is a mole or spot.”
“The big thing is to get it early. Always be checking yourself and if you do have something it doesn’t mean it’s the end.”
Majella recounted how her life took a sudden turn four years ago when she received her diagnosis.
Majella said she had had four cysts in the years before finding a lump on her breast. “I wasn’t terrified when I found the lump but I’d never been complacent. I never thought that’s another cyst, I won’t bother with it. I always thought ‘another lump, I better go and make sure’,” she said.
Majella recalled how Daniel was with her when she returned for a second consult. With her mind racing, she pieced together the medic’s reactions before she was eventually told she had cancer.
Majella shared intimate details of her treatment and desire to have a double mastectomy. Doctors told her she did not need to have her breasts removed, but she wanted the personal assurance: “For me, if I had them I would be constantly thinking what if, what if. I don’t trust them anymore,” she said.
Majella is now four years cancer-free, but admitted that she worries more about her cancer returning as the years go on. She said she counts herself lucky that her cancer was in her breasts, which were removable. She also saw the positive side of losing her hair – safe in the knowledge that it would grow back.
As a prominent advocate for mental health, Majella talked about her depression and was thankful that her cancer did not impact her mindset during treatment.
“I never doubted I would come out the other side,” she said. “It is tough, but it’s doable.”
A round of applause filled the room when Majella talked about her fundraising head shave on The Late Late Show for the Irish Cancer Society.
At the start of her chemo, she said she wanted to be in control of her experience and decided to shave her head for charity.
“It was purely a gut instinct,” she said, casting off all doubts that it would offend people or be too extreme.
Majella’s momentous TV head shave raised €700,000 for the ICS. Proceeds from today’s afternoon tea go towards Cancer Care West (The West of Ireland Cancer Charity), and there was a great atmosphere of celebration and goodwill at the event.
The experienced McElhinneys lingerie team were on hand to talk to women about their prosthesis fitting services and breast cancer information was available in the department.
Majella took extra time after her talk to meet with all the guests – along with a full bus load of visitors from Wexford. She listened to personal stories, signed autographs and posed for photos with everyone who was eager to meet the woman who has inspired so many others.