Ooh la la! Be a dancer for cancer

Muireann O'Connell & Matt Cooper for Today FM Dare To Care

Matt Cooper and Muireann O’Connell are encouraging us all to lace up our dancing shoes in aid of the Irish Cancer Society, writes Ciara McDonnell.

“It's very humbling to listen to the stories of people who have dealt with cancer.”

I’m chatting with Matt Cooper, at the launch of Today FM’s Dare To Care 2019 in aid of The Irish Cancer Society. The yearly event is hugely successful — since 2010, Today FM and its listeners have raised over €8 million for The Irish Cancer Society, thanks to a light-hearted approach to such an emotive subject.

This year, Today FM presenters are asking listeners to vote on a song to play on April 30, their National Day of Dancing, when they are inviting us be a Dancer For Cancer, and dance our hearts out while fundraising for vital cancer research. By 2020, one in two of us will receive a cancer diagnosis in our lifetime, but there are more people beating the disease than ever before, with over 200,000 cancer survivors in Ireland right now.

Muireann O’Connell, presenter of Today FM’s lunchtime show says that taking part in Dare To Care is one of her great privileges. “I think it’s been something that has really connected with me and with our listeners,” she tells me.

Everyone has been affected by cancer and what I love about this campaign it marries the fact that within this horrible, horrible disease, there will be terrible days, but there will be some good ones too.

"I think that the way the people all over the country get on board with us every year and have a bit of fun, while at the same time saying ‘Jesus Christ this is awful’ is a beautiful juxtaposition of the experience.”

For Cooper, taking part in Dare To Care is life-affirming. “As presenter of The Last Word, meeting people who have been through or are going through cancer makes me extremely grateful for being well, and how important it is to use the platform that you are given to make these stories heard.”

Dare To Care, and Shave Or Dye before it have been rooted in fun and laughter, because when confronted with cancer, it is essential to embrace life, says The Last Word presenter.

“You have to live with cancer and you have to fight cancer but you don’t have to ‘suffer’ cancer”, he qualifies. “There was a time when a diagnosis of cancer was regarded as having no chance of survival. That’s not the case anymore. While not every cancer is survivable, you have a good chance, depending on the type of cancer it is, thanks to the advances that there have been in medical science and in medical delivery. You can’t take it for granted that you’ll fight it and you’ll win, because that doesn’t always have it.”

Talking and sharing the stories that come out of cancer experiences is an essential part of the Dare To Care campaign, and the platform that the station provides is not lost on Muireann O’Connell. “Cancer has been around for time immemorial but the fact is how it affects people physically and emotionally is major,” she explains.

While every person’s experience is different, the simple act of talking is a freeing one, says the presenter. “It is a life-shattering experience for the time that people have it, and we still lose so many people from the disease. We are learning that we have to say, do you know what? F&*K You, Cancer. We are learning that we have to talk about it and not suffer in silence, because this disease can ravage your body, your mind and your life. If we don’t talk and just accept our lot, with this disease, it’s going to become even more pervasive. This all starts with talking about it.”

The sense of community that Dare To Care fosters beyond the radio station and throughout the country is one of the things that Matt, Muireann and their colleagues are most proud of.

Matt says:

The event creates a community response, and it’s a national community that comes together for Dare To Care.

“This year’s campaign is a particularly smart and clever one, because we’ve done different things over the years, but this one has a sense of it being a fantastic community thing that everyone can come together to do at the same time.” When it comes down to it, we should try to give back when we can, says Matt Cooper.

“We can go through long swathes of our lives where we are fortunate enough to avoid these things, and then you go through periods where it either happens to you or someone who is close to you either through a scare or an illness,” he says. “I have reached an age now where I am shocked to discover the amount of people that I know who have been affected by cancer.

"As I get older I come to realise that there is a great thing about actually putting your hand in your pocket and doing something for a charity is good for you - it gives you a sense of community and wellness to do something for something other than yourself.”

To get involved in Today FM’s Dare to Care visit: www.todayfm.com/daretocare

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