A house and a home


Rock Rose House
?Padhraic Barrett (Manager of Services, Rock Rose House) and Angela Kirrane (PR and Fund-Raising co-ordinator) are pictured in Castlebar last week.?Pic: Michael McLaughlin

A house and a home

Rock Rose House in Castlebar is a ‘cavern of calm’ for cancer patients

Willie McHugh

FROM the outside Rock Rose House looks just another ordinary abode in a row of neat terraced houses across the road from Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar. But a press of the doorbell unveils a place that’s different.
Since 2003 Rock Rose House has been the permanent home of Mayo Cancer Support and it serves as a drop-in centre offering emotional and practical support to people diagnosed with cancer, and also for their families and friends.
It’s the threshold nobody wants to cross over until they have to. And even then those first steps can be difficult.
Padhraic Barrett knows that better than most and admits he was a tad reluctant too. It took him a few trips before he mustered up enough courage to knock.
“The biggest obstacle is that first visit,” he recalled last week.
“I remember when I pulled up outside and wondering if I’d go in or not. I didn’t, and the next time I came back I got a parking ticket from the meter, put it on the dash, and still didn’t go in. But on the third visit I walked in and it was one of the best things I ever did. Once the door was answered I was greeted by a welcoming presence and a caring ear.”
It was a long and bumpy road that led him here.
“I was in the Ulster Bank for thirty two years and taking voluntary redundancy. I was due to finish on November 30, 2009 and I had all the great notions about sitting back and enjoying my retirement for a year and then doing all the things I’d planned to do.
“But that rug was pulled from under me before I even left the job because I was diagnosed with cancer on the 25th so I went from one emotion to another very quickly.
“The priority then became the cancer and dealing with all that. It took the best part of a year to get that sorted. I was up and down to Galway a lot after that for various tests and treatment so it was more or less to break the journey back to Belmullet I came in here.”
Today, Padhraic Barrett is Manager of Services at Rock Rose House. After surgery and treatment was finished he initially worked as a volunteer with Mayo Cancer Support as a way of giving something back to the place that became his cavern of calm in a valley of turmoil. “Rock Rose House was busy,” he explained. “The Board of Management opted to put a manager in place and Angela [Kirrane] would take charge of fundraising and PR which is what she wanted to do. I applied, and was successful, and I absolutely love the job.”
As well as information Rock Rose House provides free services like reflexology, aromatherapy, massage and yoga. Other things too like art and creative writing classes. All the staff are professionally trained and always work in conjunction with the medical profession.
Fundraising is the remit of Angela Kirrane. Her brief is not a simple call because 85% of funding raised is from voluntary effort. Events like Janet’s Walk (Janet Durkan) in Louisburgh, Patricia O’Grady-Mulchrone’s Greenway Cycle in August and the Castlebar Mini-Marathon generate substantial annual funding.  
Ray Grady from Westport is doing a thing called ‘Marms Boys’ and to date Ray’s venture has raised close on €6,000 and rising. On April 5 there’s a fashion show planned for Breaffy House. After that it’s the old reliable bucket rattling, church gate collections and donations in lieu of flowers.
Rock Rose House is a tight-run ship and all money is spent prudently. There’s the wage bill for seven employees who offer the professional services the house provides and overheads like light, heat and upkeep of the building dip deep into the money jar also.
Rock Rose House is spreading its message around the county now. They’ve already held an open evening in Ballina where doctors and nutritionists involved in cancer patient care gave talks.
That chat triggered huge interest and the impetus to hold similar information evenings around the county. Rock Rose House is also lending a shoulder to the year of ‘The Gathering’ wheel. Plans to hold a gathering in April of all cancer survivors in Mayo are already at an advanced stage.
The name is derived from the Rock Rose flower that survives in the toughest climatic conditions. Rock Rose House in Castlebar is a haven of hope.
Inside that door there’s a listening ear and an assurance of a beacon of light at the tunnel end. Walking to the door of Rock Rose House is probably the hardest step of all. That’s where Padhraic Barrett stalled a little too when fate careered him off life’s planned journey.
Then he tapped on an open door.
TO speak to any of the Mayo Cancer Support Association team, call (094) 9038407 or visit www.mayocancer.ie