Life is a precious gift which is irreplaceable.


I had planned to write on a completely different topic for this week’s post, but I just have to get my feelings on this out or I’ll explode.

Donal Walsh. If you watch the Saturday Night Show on RTÉ you’ll have seen Donal’s 19 minute interview that catapulted the 16 year old to nationwide fame. Maybe it’s the letter on suicide he wrote. Or even if it’s the documentary “Donal Walsh: My Story” that had Donal Walsh trending on Twitter in Ireland.

Donal Walsh? He was just a normal boy from Tralee in Co Kerry with a great love for Munster Rugby. But when he was twelve years old he was diagnosed with cancer in his knee. I’m not going to go into the gory details. He had chemo and pulled through after having a good portion of his knee bone removed. This ended Donal's dream of playing rugby for Munster. He returned to life as normal. But the cancer came back. He had tumours in his lungs. Donal had part of his lungs removed. But he kept fit, lifted weights and built his strength up. He was a fighter. Donal was hit by a car one day cycling, and broke a few ribs and injured his shoulder. But that still didn’t defeat him. A few weeks later, his opposite shoulder was paining him, so Donal went to hospital for scans and tests. It was bad news. He had a tumour in his shoulder. A few weeks after this, Donal, his father Fionnbarr and his friend John were sent to Dublin for a Pet scan. They had a four day wait, and then his mother got a phone call. His mother hung up on the call in tears. The news? She explained that there were six tumours, all growing aggressively and no treatment options available. This happened in the space of around four years.  Donal had to fight cancer three times in four years. A lot more happened, and if you’d like to read a more detailed account of Donal’s cancer story, check out this link:

Donal died on the 12th May 2013, aged 16. His funeral was shown on in a news segment on RTÉ 1. Thousands attended his funeral. You could say the country was in mourning for a beautiful light that had so much to give that was quenched. Donal was carried to his place of rest by players from the Munster Rugby team including Ronan O’ Gara. I remember watching that segment and having to fight back my tears. When you hear about someone so young having cancer, you don’t really realize the severity of it. When I saw Donal on The Saturday Night Show he looked quite healthy. Sure, he was out of breath at times, and little wan. But his voice was strong. His message was simple. He told people never to think that suicide was an option. To appreciate life, and to know that help is out there. That life was precious, especially to him as he wasn’t going to live much longer. Despite hearing that his cancer was terminal I didn’t think he’d die. I thought a miracle would happen. I was hoping desperately for something to save him. Anything.

After his interview on The Saturday Night Show, everyone in school was talking about him. I read countless articles praising him, raving about him. I know some people weren’t happy about some of the things he said about suicide but I think anyone who watched his interview knows that what he said was meant to bring hope to people. To let them know that there are many people out there who are willing to listen to those who need help.

Donal wasn't negative during his interview, he had a grace and beauty to the way he spoke and carried himself. People hung on to his every word. His sweet smile. Paul Galvin, his style inspiration. A Kerry man through and through.

The words he spoke that felt like daggers to my heart were about leaving this world.
“If there is anything negative it's all the beautiful things I'm leaving behind”. That hurts me. Because it was so true. I think Donal had come to terms with the fact that he was going to die. How he did I don’t know. But he didn’t think of himself, he thought of the pain his family and friends were going to go though after his death.

I definitely feel angry about his death and the deaths of all those who have passed away due to cancer.  I don’t think there’s enough support for cancer research no matter how many appeals are made. I can’t tell you why Donal’s story has resonated with me as much as it has. I don’t know. I didn’t know him. He was younger than me, and yet on his short time on this earth he has managed much more than I have in my eighteen years of life. He was phenomenal. A light in the dark. A beacon of hope. After Donal’s interview on The Saturday Night Show there were no suicides in South Kerry for six whole months. If that isn’t an amazing achievement I don’t know what is.

One thing I love about Donal is that he never asked be a hero. He never accepted the words hero, brave, courageous etc that were bestowed on him, even though they were true. He made the most of the time he had left on this earth. Something that I do think of when someone mentions Donal is his smile.

I full on sobbed the second time I watched Donal’s interview. I think it impacts you more strongly the more you watch it.
Sometimes I don't feel as I have a right to cry about him because I didn’t know him. But he struck a chord with so many people, especially with suicide being a subject that crops up more and more nowadays, as the mental health of our youth isn't that good these days. Even the mental health of a lot of adults is poor what with the recession and its effects hanging over everyone’s heads. Things get tough, believe me. We just have to know that there’s always help there if we feel like what we’re going through is too much.

I know his family and friends will never forget him. To them, he's a cherished son, brother, and friend.
One thing I hope to God that won’t happen is that I forget about him. Or his powerful message.

When I think of Donal, and believe me, I’ve been thinking about him all week, I think of life, I think of hope, I think of the beauty in the world and of how lucky I am. I feel so sad about it. Don’t get me wrong, it's not just Donal's story I think about, it's all those who have passed away from cancer, my neighbor died from cancer, almost everyone I know has had a friend or relative with cancer.                

If there’s one thing anyone takes away from this is that we should live our lives like he told us. To appreciate it. And I will try to live my life to the fullest. And if I ever need a little kick in the right direction, I’ll watch his interview.

I’m so sorry if I upset anyone who has read this, my intention is not to make you sad, but to know his story, to feel the urge to stand up and help fight against cancer. Rest in peace Donal, you were a great inspiration for those who needed it.
Thanks so so so much for reading.                                                
Watch Donal’s interview on the Saturday Night Show:

Link to Donal’s Documentary.
 (This one has a time limit.)

Website on the foundation that was set up by Donal’s parents Fionnbarr and Elma:

Follow @DonalLiveLife
Follow @Donal_Walsh_ (It was Donal’s personal Twitter but now his mother Elma runs it)
Follow @Jema_Walsh (His sister)

I know you can get #livelife bracelets in support of the foundation and I think all the necessary information for them in on the link I posted above!

Thank you for reading.

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  1. Excellent piece Eilis, he was such an inspiration and I have no doubt his legacy will continue for a very long time. Congratulations on a super, insightful and interesting blog page!

  2. Brilliantly Captured Eilis :) You've put great power and emotion in your writing. Amazing Job for a more amazing cause..I agree with Sally Ann! Well done :)


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