Madeleine McCoole

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Nicole Glennon, Irish Examiner, April 12th 2021 

When Madeleine McCoole first discovered a lump on her right breast in the shower, she didn’t think much of it. “I have two young kids, I was working full time,” she said, by way of explanation. “I did ignore it for a couple of weeks.” 

But when, a few weeks later, she ended up in her doctors with her son for another reason, she decided to mention it. Three weeks later, she was diagnosed with a grade 3 tumour. “My oncologist referred to it as a nasty … but I was very lucky because I caught it at stage one. If I had ignored that for any longer … my diagnosis probably would have been very different.”  

Like many breast cancer survivors, the mother of two from Carrigaline, Co Cork, has been inspired to share her story in the hopes of raising awareness and ensuring more people get a ‘good prognosis’, as she did. For Ms McCoole, it is a cause dear to her heart, as she knows how important funding for research and awareness programmes is. “It was never as bad as I feared. I know everyone’s story is different and everyone’s treatment is different, but it is so treatable and I suppose that’s the reason why funding for ongoing research is so important. It’s those improvements that are changing it from ‘oh my god I’ve got breast cancer, am I going to die?’ to ‘I’ve got breast cancer but it’s survivable.” 

She also saw the role research has in treating cancer and preventing its reoccurrence. “At the start, it wasn’t clear whether I’d need chemotherapy or not and they did an Oncotype DX test, which is a genetic test to determine the likelihood of cancer returning or not,” she explained. “Even just around the time that we were waiting on results of that, new research came out in relation to how effective chemo was, depending on whether you came out, low, medium or high on that test, and that fed into the treatment that I got. I came out high which meant that I had a high chance of my cancer returning.” 

“A few years ago my treatment probably would have been my surgery and radiotherapy but there probably would have been a very high chance of it returning, whereas now because of this research, they know that chemotherapy can actually help prevent it returning. So I went through chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy. If I had ignored that for any longer…my diagnosis probably would have been very different.” 

“For people that are going through it, I think you will realise that you’re braver than you might give yourself credit for … you will look back and go, ‘wow I did that’.”