My mother died on 2 February 1998, from breast cancer - she was 51 years old.
I come from a family of five, me being the youngest, with three older brothers and one sister.
We grew up in and around Dublin and in many ways were a typical Irish family. Our Mother was our rock - her passing left a huge hole in the lives of us kids and my dad. To see her gradually succumb to breast cancer, despite the bravest of fights, left us questioning everything we thought was fair and right with the world.
The anger we all felt ate at me in particular. I threw myself into work with Boyzone and used the madness of our lives to mask the hurt that I was feeling. I found it impossible to comprehend that my Mother had been taken from us.
My Mother came from a generation of women (and men) who were brought up not to make a fuss, not to visit the doctor unless it was really serious and not to discuss 'women's troubles'. When she finally made an appointment to see a specialist about the lump in her breast, it was too late.
This fear and reluctance to check herself was something that not just my mother, not just me and my family but millions of people were and still are guilty of. It was the realization that cancer can be treated if it is diagnosed early enough that drove us to set up the Marie Keating Foundation (MKF).
MKF was formed in 1998 in Ireland with the aim to raise funds to pay for a mobile cancer awareness unit. The first unit went on the road in May 2001 and since then we have added a further two units. Under the banner 'Making Cancer Less Frightening By Enlightening' the units have visited over 5,000 locations in Ireland and given advice to over 150,000 people.
I have been lucky enough to have a great career in the UK so it was only natural that I'd want to spread the great work of MKF into the UK. In 2006 we partnered with Cancer Research UK and have since raised over £3.75 million to finance a further four units there.
The work that the staff and volunteers do on the units in the UK & Ireland is incredibly important. They are often the first port of call for someone with concerns about their health. Only a few days ago I met a lady who had visited one of our units as she was concerned about a lump on her breast. One of the nurses talked to her and helped get her an appointment with a specialist and that specialist confirmed she had breast cancer. The cancer was treated and the lady is in remission. She came to find me to say, 'thank you' but really the thanks goes to all those who have helped, in even the smallest of ways, with the work of Marie Keating Foundation and Cancer Research UK.
Fourteen years on from my Mother's passing I look back and the pain is still there, I've just learnt to live with it. The anger is still there too, as I now know that if my Mother's cancer had been detected early enough, she would still be with us today.
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