In case you missed it, for the month of October I am raising funds and awareness through sales of my art work (you can purchase the linked prints here) and here on the blog for two main charities – Fintan’s fund and Cancer focus NI.
The blogposts will showcase stories and you can learn about why these local charities do what they do. Rachael’s story is incredible!
Rachael thanks for joining us on the blog. In a few lines can you tell us your story and the motivation behind Fintan’s fund.
Thanks so much for having me! So Fintan’s Fund supports young adults with cancer in Northern Ireland. We fund and arrange memory-making experiences for people to enjoy and share with their friends and family. The motivation came from my husband Fintan who was ill with cancer for two years and sadly passed away in 2014. Fintan was a guy who loved a good time and was all about extending the fun, getting people together and enjoying himself. He was a rugby player, music enthusiast, comedy lover and massive eater. During his illness we made a conscious effort to choose fun, we grabbed opportunities whenever we could to take quality time and make memories. Fintan’s Fund is about giving others the same chance to do that, in a way that reflects them and their interests.
Was there a reason behind the upbeat and fun logo which includes a cow?
Yes, we worked closely with a copy-writer and graphic designer to really capture the message of our fund. We wanted people to know we aren’t just about big or thrill-seeking memories but that we can arrange relaxing, low-key things that just break up the week.
The cow is a nod to Fintan himself, his nickname was Moo. It gets people talking and we wear cow print at sporting fundraisers like the marathon relay. The cow adds an element of fun and light-heartedness to a serious thing and makes us stand out in a crowd.
How do you think grief has shaped you on a day to day basis?
In so many little ways I think. Sometimes it’s difficult to relate to people because my life seems to be going on a different course. Other times it can make me a bit numb or despondent to things that happen; there is a massive sense of injustice that accompanies grief and it can seem that so many things that happen are insurmountable.
But its effect is not all negative, I definitely don’t sweat the small stuff as much as I used to and I’m much better at letting go of things beyond my control. Most of all, I’ve come to realise that grief isn’t a feeling that passes. In the early days it was all encompassing, now it’s perhaps less obvious but its still there. But I’ve realised we can do stuff, no matter how small, to make a difference.
Is there one action or way of living that you would encourage anybody going through a similar journey to what you have gone through which would help them cope?
Not being too hard on yourself. I struggled with that quite a lot and would get frustrated at my (lack of) ability to cope, both when Fintan was ill and as I grieve for him. On the other end of that, don’t be hard on yourself for coping or getting on with things. Each day is different, sometimes you cry, sometimes you are angry that it’s sunny. On others though you do laugh, sometimes you do enjoy yourself…those things are okay too.
How does Fintan’s fund bring hope and joy to the people who use your fab services?
By giving people something that is completely theirs. We are facilitators but people get to choose the experience they want themselves. We’ve helped couples have quality time together, gave friendship groups the chance to let loose and provided families with a chance to enjoy the activities they love. A lot of the feedback from people is that they get a reprieve which allows them to gather their strength for what comes next. We unfortunately can’t change the outcome for anyone but we can hopefully change their experience through kindness, acknowledgement and generosity.
We had the idea of linking the bicycle prints (scroll to bottom of the post or buy from the shop now), tell us about the cycle you did in Paris last month and what it felt like having experienced dark times in the past, was this a time of light and celebration almost?
Certainly… by the end! I’m not a cyclist and we signed up precisely for a challenge but there were times that really pushed me to my limits. Going up a hill, with no gears to drop and no end in sight was tough…but we always made it to the top. Other times you were flying along, wind in your face and it was exhilarating.
Being on the bike, day after day, did get me thinking about ‘the journey’. Life is a journey that sometimes requires a little bit of pushing through the pedals, particularly if you have to factor in cancer. Sometimes though, it’s also great to be reminded of the times you can freewheel and enjoy the breeze in your face!
The postcards epitomise this. You could put them on the wall to encourage yourself to keep pedalling, stick them to the fridge as a reminder of how far you have home or pop one in the post to let someone know you’re thinking of their journey.
Bicycles are essentially about journeys, can you tell us about your own journey moving forward with the charity?
I hope we get more people on board and continue to make a positive difference to people at an often dark and difficult time. I hope people invite us to be a part of their journey, that they don’t feel shy or that it’s not for them. Our memories are so personal but we work sensitively with people so that they have an experience that suits them.
In terms of fundraising, we’ve a black tie ball coming up on 4th November (ticket details are on our facebook page). We try to have events that also create memories and bring people together so hopefully 2018 will bring more of that buzz. We’re also keen to work with other cancer charities and compliment the very important work they do.
Any last words or shout outs?
If you know someone who could benefit, do get in touch. For all those facing cancer head on this month, whether its personally, in honour of someone, to raise awareness, to pursue a cure, you are making a real difference.
A message from Aly
Thanks for taking the time to read about Fintan’s fund and for supporting the work of the charities! It is as much about awareness and joining together to talk about the reality and pain that comes with a cancer diagnosis. Please share by clicking one of the share buttons on this post, or do so on your social media. Thank you!
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