By Larry Ryan
Amanda Stapleton has described the devastating moment she was diagnosed with a high-grade, inoperable brain tumour — and expressed her gratitude to the Borrisoleigh and GAA communities for giving her a “will to fight for as much time as I can get”.
The hurlers of Tipperary and Kilkenny played a benefit match last Saturday for Amanda, 31, sister of former Tipp All-Ireland winner Paddy and Cuala All-Ireland club winner Shane.
The occasion drew a crowd of 6,000 people to the Stapletons’ home village of Borrisoleigh in north Tipp, and an outpouring of support for Amanda, who received her diagnosis earlier this year in London.
In a powerful letter of thanks printed in the match programme, Amanda describes a traumatic year.
She initially lost feeling on her left side on a trip to Ireland, and collapsed on the flight back to London, with CT scans confirming bleeding in the brain and a tumour. Amanda was confined to a wheelchair and unable to work. However, doctors hoped they were dealing with a non-aggressive, low-grade tumour and more scans were needed before a fuller diagnosis.
“I remember talking to Paddy the night before my full diagnosis, and telling him how nervous I was — he reciprocated the feeling,” Amanda writes. “The day came and I made my way to the hospital with a knot in the pit of my stomach.
“The neurosurgeon came into the consultation room and I knew it was bad news. He wore it all over his face. ‘It’s high grade. There’s nothing we can do except provide you with treatment that will give you value for life and some longevity. I’m sorry’.
“The clinical nurse described the treatment process — it went completely over my head.
“I got home and eventually made those six dreaded phone calls. I broke their hearts. Shane was straight over — never was one for waiting. Emotions were running high. I greeted him with tears and pain and when I broke from his embrace, I was stunned with the sight of three more nights in shining armour — my brothers Tim, Paddy and Paul. They were here to save me, and they did. Strength surged through my body and we had a weekend full of fun and laughter. I was on cloud nine.
“But three days later, the tumour got to work on me. I could feel it throbbing. I quickly went downhill and ended up in A&E again. My head was bursting and I feared I had had a third haemorrhage.”
The tumour had grown.
Amanda pays tribute to the support of her partner Cillian, her family, and her close circle of friends.
“I was let go home after a week and contemplated how I was going to be brave, and how I could see any sign of positivity.
“The news started to spread and that’s when I began to see some light. A flurry of well wishes came from people far and wide.”
But there were worries over paying rent and financing treatment. There were constant taxi trips to and from hospitals.
“My London crew and Borrisoleigh friends jumped to support me as much as they could. We’ll all chip in, said numerous friends.”
Back home, meanwhile, her brothers were piecing together a plan.
Huge support for the Stapleton family at the @AmandaFund game in @BorrisGAA tonight, spoke to Amanda's brother @ShaneSaint before the meter ran out... pic.twitter.com/vsANk6X5mn— Will O'Callaghan (@willocallaghan) November 4, 2018
“We sat around trying to think how we can remove her financial concerns,” Shane says. “We talked about the contacts we had and we thought of a hurling match.”
The hurlers of Tipperary and Kilkenny and the GAA public responded generously and a Gofundme campaign gathered its own momentum.
Amanda was blown away by the reaction.
“How could this be? Why do people care so much? I haven’t lived in Borris for 12 years.
“But Borris people do care and they have given me my life back, working hard on my fundraiser with any free minute they have, all while checking in on me. Love and support has never been so obvious. I can hardly believe what is happening sometimes.”
She made it from London for an emotional night in her homeplace on Saturday, even taking part in a walk through the village. And she says the backing of so many people has steeled her for the fight ahead.
“Since treatment started, I have regained much of my mobility. My independence is returning. The people of Borris, the hurlers, and so many more have gone to the ends of the earth to ensure that I have what I need which has invariably given me strength, built on the defiance against my disease, perseverance to regain my strength, and a will to fight for as much time as I can get.
“The people involved in the fundraiser have given me that and so much more.
“From the bottom of my heart I cannot thank all those who have been supporting me enough. Humanity is alive and well and I am proud to be part of this amazing journey.”
You can donate to the Amanda Stapleton fund at: ie.gofundme.com/Amandastapletonfund.