Two Donegal sportswomen, Rita Casey and Amelia McFarland, will tell their cancer story at the final event of the ‘Let’s Talk About Cancer’ series this April.

The event, taking place in Carrick on Shannon on Sat 13th April, will be looking at the role of sport in combating a cancer diagnosis.

Amelia McFarland who lives in Dunmore, Carrigans was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2022 and credits sport for helping her cope during her difficult cancer journey.

Amelia states that the more exercise you do while going through aggressive chemotherapy the better you are at the other end. 

She played rugby for City of Derry last season and now lines out with Blackrock College in Dublin. 

She is also well known in equestrian circles having competed in the National Dressage Championship last year.

East Donegal breeder Amelia McFarland

Amelia is also an accomplished businesswoman having turned her family ancestral home Dunmore House & Gardens in east Donegal into a venue for wedding and corporate events.

Rita Casey was diagnosed with stage 4 brain and lung cancer in May 2021. She previously overcame breast cancer in 2017 and made the achievement of running the Dublin City marathon in 4hrs 4mins on 29th Oct 2023. She did so whilst still undergoing chemotherapy and raised an impressive €232,300 for Mayo/Roscommon Hospice Foundation.

Rita Casey and CEO of Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation, Martina Jennings. Rita raised over €22,000 for Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation all while undergoing treatment for cancer.

Married to former Mayo footballer John Casey who played in the 1996 & 1997 All Ireland Finals, Rita is a proud Donegal woman born and reared near Malin.  She is currently stationed in Ballymote serving as a Garda in the Sligo District.

Carrick on Shannon is the final event of a series of three ‘Let’s Talk About Cancer’ in the north west, the first of which took place in Ballyshannon on the 13th May ’23 and the second in Sligo on 5th November last.

The line-up features former Leitrim goalkeeper and one of the event organisers Martin McHugh, who has twice survived cancer.  He has written a book about the support he received from teammates, mentors, opposition teams and the wider sporting community citing it as a major factor in aiding his recovery.  The theme of sport will be explored more deeply at the Carrick on Shannon event with six of the speakers hailing from here in the North West. Rita Casey and Amelia McFarland from Donegal, Caroline Currid and Mary Cullen from Sligo, with Martin McHugh and Declan Loftus from Leitrim completing an inspirational regional team.

All Ireland winning managers Sean Boylan and John O’Mahony who have both survived a cancer diagnosis will also speak at the event.

The line up will be completed by Cavan footballer Oisin Kiernan who survived testicular cancer in 2018 and Corrinne Hasson, Director of Services with The Irish Cancer Society.

The events are being held to highlight the excellent support services available in the North West for people following a cancer diagnosis whilst acknowledging that everyone copes or adjusts to their diagnosis in their own way. 

The Irish Cancer Society’s mantra is ‘if you are struggling or you are feeling anxious or depressed don’t suffer in silence as there are many places to go for help’. It is these supports in Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim that event organisers are keen to promote whilst encouraging people to reach out for help should they be experiencing difficulties.

Paul McLoone from Ballyshannon, who has survived cancer on six occasions himself, is the main organiser of all three events and states that walking and swimming on a regular basis were key factors in helping him survive some very difficult times.

Paul said: ‘For most people exercise is safe and helpful before, during and after cancer treatment. It helps the body and brain to work better, improves your quality of life and gives you more energy to do the things you like. Physical exercise helps to lessen depression and anxiety, increases your appetite and helps you to sleep better’.

The event, which is a morning of music and chat is being held from 10am to 1.15pm on Saturday 13th April in the Landmark Hotel. The final musical act of the day is Donegal’s own ‘rock and roll kid’ himself Charlie McGettigan. Tickets are only €10 and you can pay at the door on the morning of the event with all proceeds being donated to North West Hospice and SHOUT.