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‘Hugs for Karen’ raises money and awareness for the Irish Cancer Society

Hugs for Karen has been organised to raise funds for the Irish Cancer Society, in honour of LIT Lecturer Karen Sugrue, pictured, who was diagnosed with cancer this April and has been undergoing treatment during the COVID 19 pandemic

‘Hugs for Karen’ raises money and awareness for the Irish Cancer Society

By I Love Limerick Correspondent Mary Doyle

LIT Sociology lecturer and Limerick lady Karen Sugrue was diagnosed with breast cancer this April and has been undergoing immediate treatment throughout the COVID 19 pandemic. In light of this, the ‘Hugs for Karen’ fundraiser has been organised to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society and Karen’s treatment, as she shares her unique experience and raises awareness about Cancer and the importance of self-examination.



Hugs for Karen

Karen pictured with her two children during lockdown

Karen, who is 44 and a mother of two, first noticed a lump on her breast on Friday, April 24, and just 23 days later she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and began chemotherapy treatment at the University Hospital Limerick. Her positive experience with the immediacy and efficiency of the medical professionals in Limerick inspired Karen to spread the message of how important it is for people to continue to engage with and make use of our health services.

“When the system works it really works and it has worked for me. There isn’t a department of the hospital I haven’t been in in preparation for chemotherapy and everywhere is taking great caution, and being very careful – and they are so kind in spite of their own stress they must be feeling on the front line,” Karen said.

As a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, there has been a noticeable drop in the number of people attending both their GP and A&E with illness and more specifically, suspected cancer symptoms. It is understandable that people would be wary about attending medical centres and are more conscious of the risks involved while the COVID 19 virus is still rampant, but Karen’s story highlights the importance of seeking medical care when needed, and the commitment of the front line staff to putting their patients’ health and safety first.

In a Facebook post, Karen wrote, “I feel so grateful and incredibly lucky on a number of fronts right now. What I have is treatable and curable, mostly because I caught it early (only by sheer dumb luck though because I’m an idiot that didn’t follow the regular boob checking advice) but also because the cancer services have been exceptional and so I’m hoping to use my experience of a cancer diagnosis during COVID to remind and reassure people about getting symptoms checked out.”

As a healthy young woman, Karen never expected to be diagnosed with cancer and undergo chemotherapy so suddenly. But she is grateful for and empowered by her experience, having said, “My experience is that it’s quite empowering to find it and be able to access the help you need. As I tell my kids this is an illness like any other and I am getting treatment. The treatment is quite strong, but I feel lucky to live in a place and at a time when I am able to get access to it.”

Hugs for Karen

Karen pictured in the University Hospital Limerick

However, the timing of her diagnosis has meant that her experience has been more complicated than it may have been otherwise. Undergoing chemotherapy in the midst of a global pandemic, while there is a rapid-spreading, deathly virus infecting millions of people, has put Karen in a high-risk category, meaning she has had to be extremely careful.

Karen says that there are multiple variables that wouldn’t have had to be in place if it wasn’t for the pandemic. “I haven’t been able to hug anyone – I know my Mam would love to give me a hug, and my friends,” she said. 

The ‘Hugs for Karen’ fundraiser has been organised by LIT’s Student Union President Jade Foynes, for people to show their support and love to Karen in the safest way possible during this time by raising money for the Irish Cancer Society. Take part in an activity, whether it be running, walking, cooking, reading – and make a donation to the Irish Cancer Society here. Share on social media using #hugsforKaren.

Karen is focusing on raising awareness about the importance of self-examination and being aware of potential signs and symptoms of cancer at all ages. Even with the best intentions, like many, she would often think ‘I must check myself’ if moved by a story but a lot of the time forgetfulness would kick in.

The Irish Cancer Society has resources available to help you become symptom aware here, as well as resources here to help people who are cocooning or undergoing treatment at this time. The Irish Cancer Society Support Line is also open 7 days a week at 1800 200 700. To donate to the Irish Cancer Society, click here.

For more stories on the Irish Cancer Society, click here.

Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.