Breidge Doherty Story

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We had the privilege of sitting down with Breidge Doherty, and her family while Breidge was receiving care in the inpatient unit. They shared Breidge’s journey of cancer diagnosis and treatment, her experience in the Foyle Hospice inpatient unit, the friends she made, and the support she received in Day Therapy. 

“It was like coming into heaven on earth” – this is how Derry woman Breidge Doherty describes her experience as an inpatient at Foyle Hospice, where she is currently receiving treatment for cancer and symptom management. The kind-hearted mother-of-two spent many years raising money for the local hospice, but little did she know she would become a patient there one day herself.

Breidge’s cancer journey began in 2022, not long after she retired from her job after 10 years as a Family Support Worker within the ADHD Clinic and Primary Mental Health at CALMS.  Concerned, Breidge rang the doctor after she started experiencing symptoms while out on a drive with her sister and friend.

Following a couple of trips to Altnagelvin Hospital, where she had biopsies taken, the Derry mother was diagnosed with cancer within a few weeks. Her son Mark shared that he knew something was wrong when he returned home from work on a Friday evening.  “My mum was there with her friend Helen, which was unusual; I was in a state of shock when she told me she had cancer.  Helen was there to support her, and she has been there for all of us every step of the way.”

Breidge explained: “It was 38 days up and down to the hospital for a combination of radiotherapy, brachytherapy, and chemotherapy treatments – it completely floored me to the point where I could barely move. The last week of chemo was the toughest. I should have had six treatments of it, but I could only manage five. 
“I had to tell them it was enough because I was in so much pain – when I was prepping for the treatment, I couldn’t even undress myself, and I felt sorry for the staff who had to help me do that.”


Mark added, “We were always a close family, but this brought us even closer together.  So many people supported us; we gained strength from family and friends, and without them, I don’t know how we would have gotten through it.”


Fortunately, by January 2023, relieved Breidge was given the all-clear after a gruelling journey of different treatments.
She continued: “I was delighted when I was given the opportunity to ring the bell at the end of it; it was very emotional, and I was so relieved.” 

Everything seemed to be going great for Breidge until a few months later when she started having back trouble. The following month, Breidge received the devastating shock of yet another cancer diagnosis – this time, she was diagnosed with bladder cancer and told her other cancer had returned, which would mean further treatment.


According to Breidge, the most difficult part of her journey so far has been revealing her cancer diagnosis to her two sons, Mark and Gary, a conversation she never imagined she would have with them.
“It was the hardest talk I ever had to do in my life and it’s strange to think, but I feel relieved that I will never have to have that talk with them again,” explained Breidge who is supported by her loving sons along with their wives, Aisling and Roisin, and her five grandchildren, Amy,  Oisín, Jack, Béibhinn and Brooke.
“My diagnosis has hurt all of us,” she continued. “It was really frightening being told I had cancer and I was left thinking well, my life must be over now. However, when the hospital suggested I come to Foyle Hospice, it was honestly like a weight being lifted off my shoulders coming in here.”


Mark continued, “My mother was very, very ill in the hospital; she had been given a syringe driver, and we were asked if we had ever considered the Hospice.  I couldn’t believe just how quickly things had seemed to have escalated. At this point it appeared to the family that end of life was imminent. Thankfully a bed became available in the hospice. We now understand so much more about what the hospice does, and have seen a complete change in our mothers since she arrived.”


Inspirational Breidge admits that she has managed to keep strong throughout her cancer journey, which she believes is a result of not only medical intervention but also her strong faith in God. 
She said: “I have great faith, and I’m very lucky to have great friends and family who have been an amazing support to me. 
“I am very close to my cousins who have travelled to come to visit me in the Hospice, even bringing me treats and just being so supportive throughout this whole journey – we were so close growing up and remain close to this day. My friend Helen visits me in the Hospice every single day. We have been friends for 45 years after meeting in the labour ward, she’s so good and she can’t do enough for me. Helen has never missed a day since the beginning, supporting me in every way.”


When talking to Breidge’s son Gary about his mother’s illness, he said, “ It was clear from the beginning that she chose to be positive no matter what the diagnosis or setback was.  She has a strong faith and a lot of people have supported that, helping us all.”


He continued, “Going from the hospital into Hospice was a very positive experience. My mum’s room opens out into the gardens, it is so beautiful and peaceful here. The personal care that she receives is unbelievable.Everyone has time for you; they are so knowledgeable and take time to chat and answer any questions you may have. The food is amazing, the menu is so personalised and nothing is too much to ask for.”


“The care and attention she’s received since she got here has brought back her strength. We all feel very lucky that she is here. When I leave at night I know she is happy and has everything she needs. I know now that the Hospice is not a place that you should fear. The peace of mind you get is priceless.” 


Reflecting on her past, Breidge spoke about her wonderful two-week trip around China, during which she used the fastest train in the world. As a keen walker, she was also a member of the Foyle Ramblers, which she absolutely loved. In 2019, she walked the Camino in memory of her friend Helen’s husband Willie, an amazing “spiritual” experience that she will never forget. 

Breidge recalled her time as a Social Support Worker, which she described as “tough but enjoyable”, working with Foyle Homeless for two years and Harberton House Children’s Home for thirteen years. She said: “I wouldn’t change a thing, I had a great working lifestyle.”

Speaking of Foyle Hospice, Breidge continued: “The nurses are so nurturing and are true earth angels. They always give me great encouragement, and my family has seen such a difference in me. I feel better, and I have gained weight. I was also in a wheelchair when I came here, and now I am able to use a walker and get myself out of bed. I also love walking around the grounds when I can—it is a magical place, the food is amazing, and it really is like living in a top-class hotel.

“I have started attending Day Therapy at Foyle Hospice where I have received different treatments like reflexology and getting my hair and nails done. It’s also nice to go there for a cup of tea and socialise with others.”


Over the years, Breidge has always been a huge supporter of Foyle Hospice, taking part in the Christmas Day Swim, Hospice raffles, the iconic Female Walk, and the Slip and Slide event that took place on Shipquay Street.

She continued, “I never knew I would need Foyle Hospice, but I’m so glad to have it. It really is so important for everyone. I feel unbelievably lucky that I was able to come into the Hospice.”
“It’s been a long but learning journey but I feel a real sense of safety and comfort from being in here.
“The Hospice has been a lifesaver for me. I am always aware that the end could be any time for me but, when I wake up here every morning, I thank God for another day.” 



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