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Making good on a promise


FUNDING RESEARCH Michael O’Donnell receiving a cheque for Cancer Clinical Research Trust from Kate O’Malley. All proceeds of Michael’s new book of poetry, ‘Taking Stock’, which will be launched this Sunday, will also go to the charity.

Micheal O’Donnell promised his dying daughter he would publish a collection of his poetry

In December 2016, Michael O’Donnell made a promise to his daughter Catherine that he would publish a book of poetry. This Sunday that promise will come true when he launches his first book, ‘Taking Stock’, in Achill.
However, it will be a bittersweet moment for Michael, his wife, Anne, and their family, as Catherine will not be there to enjoy the moment. In February 2017, less than two months after her dad had promised to write the collection of poetry, Catherine lost her battle with cancer. She was just 33.
All the proceeds of Michael’s book will go to the Cancer Clinical Research Trust (CCRT), a registered charity that supports patient-related cancer research based at St Vincent’s University Hospital and UCD.

New drug trials
Catherine was diagnosed with a severe and aggressive type of breast cancer called triple-negative breast cancer. Research carried out in 2016 by PHD student Naoise Synott in St Vincent’s and UCD showed that a new drug, APR-246, can prevent the spread of triple-negative breast cancer cells in a laboratory. The drug will undergo clinical trials later this year.
“The figures we have is one in ten patients get triple negative. It is more likely to affect people under the age of 40 or 50 rather than 60 or older, but you can get it at any age,” Michael told The Mayo News. “Hopefully, if these trials are successful, the drug will be available for people with triple-negative and save lives into the future. They are doing great work on the research and hopefully this book will raise some money for them.”
Michael, who hails from Pollagh on Achill Island, is very grateful to all the people who have helped raise funds for CCRT in recent months. His sister, Deirdre Cafferkey, and local woman Kathleen English raised €8,250 through the sale of hand-knitted Easter Chicks, while Achill islanders Kate O’Malley and Tommy English raised €2,600.85 from their participation in Achill Stars in Their Eyes.
‘Such a lift’
Michael has dabbled in writing poems and songs since he was 15 years old, and the book contains 32 poems, including one written by Catherine when she was in national school.
“The poems are generally my observations. We chose the name ‘Taking Stock’ because it is all about watching how people live. I write mainly to express my feeling and ideas and to record the visual aspects of every day life.”
He added that writing the poems helped him through the grieving process.
“For the year after I had promised to write it for her, nothing really meant much to me. The writing of the first poem gave me such a lift. It was like a weight lifted completely off my mind and my heart. I got a great feeling, and it made me feel good again and appreciate things again.”
All the poems in the collection are accompanied by drawings by local artists, as well as students and lecturers of Fine Art from St John’s University, York, where Michael’s daughter-in-law Lucy O’Donnell lectures.
“She invited her students to do a drawing based on what the poem is about. I’m very happy with them … some of the artists might be very famous in a couple of years’ time,” he joked.

The launch of ‘Taking Stock’ takes place in the Achill Head Hotel, Pollagh, Achill on Sunday, July 29 at 9pm. Donations to Cancer Clinical Research Trust can be made through www.ccrt.ie.