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22nd Mar 2024

‘I couldn’t give them a hug – Telling your children you have cancer when they live on the other side of the world’

Kat O'Connor

Cancer survivor, Robyn

Mum-of-three, Robyn Finucane shares her breast cancer story

So many of us have been affected by cancer, whether that’s a personal diagnosis or losing a loved one to the disease.

Cancer seeps its horrid way into our lives, but this Daffodil Day, we must remember there is hope.

Mum-of-three, Robyn Finucane recently opened up about her breast cancer diagnosis in a bid to raise awareness about the disease.

48-year-old Robyn explained that she never would’ve thought to check for lumps if she hadn’t read a story about a young lady who sadly died from breast cancer. She explained that the woman’s harrowing story stuck in her mind and encouraged her to conduct a self-exam one night.

She told’s Kat O’Connor: “Last July, I saw an article online about a young lady who had sadly died of breast cancer and it stuck with me.

“I was lying in bed a couple of nights later and I thought let me just do an examination here quickly. I never checked myself before but this prompted me and I was shocked to find a small hard lump on my right breast.”

Robyn made an appointment with her GP who referred her to St. Vincent’s triple assessment clinic. On August 17th, Robyn had a mammogram, ultrasound, and a biopsy.

“The consultant spoke to me after and told me pretty much there and then that it was most likely breast cancer, they could more or less tell from the ultrasound.”

“I was just in a daze, the rug was completely pulled out from under me”

Robyn returned to the clinic on August 31st and her doctors confirmed she had breast cancer, but it was treatable.

Robyn clung to the reassurance from her doctors throughout her treatment, but hearing the shocking news is something she won’t forget. She shared: “I’ll never ever forget that moment when I went into the consultant’s room after the triple assessment and they said the actual words to me. I think I was genuinely expecting them to tell me ah no, it’s grand, it’s nothing.

“At that moment I was just in total free fall. I had gone on my own, I hadn’t told anyone about the lump, and I didn’t want to worry my kids unnecessarily. So I was sitting there on my own in a doctor’s office and my world collapsed. I remember walking out of the hospital that summer’s evening to the car and people were heading home all normal going about their day and I was just in a daze. I got to my car and I just sat there and bawled my eyes out. Then I voice-clipped my sister and told her.  I couldn’t ring her because I knew I wouldn’t get the words out. I guess the first few days I was just in a daze, the rug was completely pulled out from under me, and I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.”

Robyn was completely floored by the news, but her family got her through the harrowing chapter. Her support network was incredible but her own strength is something she’s incredibly proud of, and rightly so. 

Telling her children she had cancer was the hardest part for Robyn

“I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for how resilient we can all be at a time like that. My doctors had assured me it was completely treatable so I just held onto that.”

As incredible as her loved ones were, Robyn said telling her grown children the news was the most difficult part for her. The 48-year-old mum has three children, but two were living abroad at the time of her diagnosis, and not being able to hug them when she shared that news was devastating for her.

“I’ve three grown-up children, two of whom were living abroad, one in Bali and one in Dubai.  Having to video call them on the other side of the world to tell them the news was possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. They were devastated and upset and I couldn’t give them a hug. I was lucky my eldest son was in the country so I could tell him in person but it was still horrible delivering that news.”

Robyn said the feeling of devastation that cancer brings is so incredibly hard to shake, especially during treatment. The mum said she wished she could tell her past self that she would be okay.

“I wish I knew that I would once again be okay and that I would feel happy again. I wish I knew life would be good once more because I completely lost that through it all. It’s just an endless feeling of devastation and upset. 

“I’m very happy to say I am okay and I got through it”

As we approach the end of March, Robyn said she is “feeling really good”. She underwent a lumpectomy and radiotherapy and finished her treatment in January. Robyn is now focusing on the future.

“Now that my treatment is finished, I’m trying to put it behind me and get back to normal.

Robyn said her diagnosis has “changed me for the better” because she now looks at life differently. “Having come through the other side, I feel so positive and excited for the future. I feel more courageous about going for things now, no more putting things off.

“No more wasting time worrying about silly things. Life is too short for that.”

“To any woman that does get bad news, don’t lose hope”

Robyn is sharing her story in a bid to urge other women to conduct self-exams, reach out to their doctors, and know the symptoms of breast cancer.

“Regular self-examinations take seconds to do and it could save your life. If caught early it’s completely treatable. Make yourself aware of the signs to look out for, it’s not just lumps, it can be pain, swelling, or itchiness.

“Women under 50 in Ireland are not in the mammogram programme and can slip through the net, we’re relying completely and utterly on ourselves.”

Robyn urged women who are over 50 to ensure they’re registered for the mammogram programme as you’re not called automatically. 

“To any woman that does get bad news, don’t lose hope.  There is so much help and support out there. The Irish Cancer Society is fantastic. I found them an invaluable source for reliable information. Purple House in Bray which was also my local cancer support centre.  There are some amazing, supportive people out there who will help you through.”

The Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day takes place Friday 22nd March 2024 and they’re asking Ireland to come together as a community and go all in. Go to to donate and support the Irish Cancer Society.