MEMBER STORY – URSULA
PSFS SUPPORT VITAL THROUGH MARRIAGE BREAKDOWN AND CANCER
Her agenda up until March of 2000 was already pretty loaded. Working her usual day in the Department of Education and Science, she was also busy as the Chairperson of Athlone Musical Society – her great love and hobby since 1983 – for their upcoming annual production.
She had thrown herself whole-heartedly into the role, her third time since 1990.
Ursula had joined the PSFS in 1997, on the advice of the Employee Assistance Officer in her department. “My marriage was breaking down and I needed some extra support and help,” Ursula says. “Little did I know what a role the society would play in my future” she added.
“My involvement in Athlone Musical Society was serving as an enjoyable distraction from my problems but in 1998 my marriage had irretrievably broken down and I had left my home with my eight year old son. I was now progressing through the legal steps to secure my separation, which was inevitable. It had been a painful and difficult time with many upsetting and trying days but family, friends and work colleagues stood firm and shouldered me through my dark hours which were numerous” says Ursula.
The 2000 musical production of the Athlone Musical Society was a resounding success: Ursula’s confidence and self esteem was returning rapidly. It was something that had been seriously dashed due to the difficulties of the previous few years but she felt she was on her way back now, so that had to be positive.
THE MAJOR SETBACK
“I had found it myself, ignored it for some weeks through sheer fear but in the end common sense prevailed. A visit to my G.P. led to an appointment at the Breast Clinic in St. Vincent’s Hospital, in Dublin. The mammogram and biopsy confirmed it all; a malignant tumour” she says.
She added “My world fell apart and I honestly felt I could take no more”.
So with all strength gone and nowhere else to turn, she entrusted herself to the care and expertise of St. Vincent’s and St. Luke’s Hospital in the hope that they would see her through. “And that too was the time when I began to really appreciate the Public Service Friendly Society” says Ursula. Her first contact came by phone the morning she was preparing to make the trip to Dublin for her surgery – in response to a letter to the Society about the possibility of some small assistance with a legal bill. In a very rushed phone call with former Chairperson, Mr. Pat Fitzgerald she explained her current plight and asked him to get back in touch again at a later stage.
“It was so great to be able to talk to someone who could understand and empathise with all your worries” says Ursula.
She had a successful operation, which contained the cancer, and this had to be followed by radio and chemotherapy treatment which in all would take about six months.
Ursula was now 43 with a ten year old who totally depended on her so she knew she had to do everything that was needed to recover. A serious infection after the surgery set her back several weeks but she fought on.
Her dilemma, financially, was that she knew she would be at least a year out of work and with no other form of income would have to manage at all costs. Half pay was looming and she was too ill to return to work and as she had never joined an Income Continuance Fund she did not know what would face her when her three months of half pay ran out.
Ursula returned to work fulltime in September 2001 weak and tired from the chemotherapy. However, with the support of management and work colleagues in Primary Administration she began to improve in leaps and bounds and life began to take on a normal appearance.
Ursula succeeded in securing a new home in April 2003 and she and her son are very happily set up there now. There have been many things that have come up since but she has been able to contact Declan O’Brien or Adeline Meagher in the Society without feeling uncomfortable and discuss things in a friendly and confidential way.
“Little did I know when I joined the PSFS myself that my small salary deduction might be helping someone else to combat a major problem or indeed that I myself might one day benefit significantly from my membership of it” she says.
As regards her health, Ursula has come through each check-up with flying colours.
“There is so much that can be done particularly with the early detection of breast cancer and every woman should be vigilant and aware that regular checking is vital and there is great help and support available” Ursula says.