May 11 | comments icon 1 COMMENT     print icon print

8-ANDREA-KEARNEY

A mother’s work is never done

— MARY McGINTY highlights the legacy of the late Catholic mother Andrea Kearney. The family-run fund in her name is helping mothers like her who face cancer during pregnancy. The charity is now preparing for its May 19 fundraising dinner helped by many household names including singer and television presenter Michelle McManus

A demanding career as media director for the Scottish bishops, and bringing up five children since the death of their mother would be a tall order for most men. But Peter Kearney is not most men and his late wife Andrea, in whose memory he runs the only fund in the UK which supports women diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy, was no ordinary woman.

Four years ago Andrea Kearney died just 17 months after she was diagnosed with cancer in the final weeks of her pregnancy with their son Philip, who is now 5. To those who knew her, Andrea remained characteristically serene as she underwent the treatment that was, ultimately, not enough to save her.

Only Peter knows the depth of the conflicting emotions she felt as she cared for her newborn son while struggling to come to terms with her terminal diagnosis. It is to help women in similar circumstances that he set up the Andrea Kearney Fund. Mercifully, it is only a tiny percentage of cancer suffers who will ever need the support of this fund, but those who benefit are in an almost peerless category.

Legacy

“There is no good time to be diagnosed with cancer but I would argue that there is probably no worse time than during pregnancy,” Peter said last week while finalising preparations for the third Andrea Kearney Fund dinner on May 19. “It should be the happiest, most fulfilling and most satisfying time for a woman. To be dealing with a cancer diagnosis is utterly devastating. Not only is it debilitating, invasive and totally draining but it has a knock-on effect on the relationship and bond that should be developing with the baby.

“Also, a woman in that situation may be attending ante-natal appointments but not feeling part of the group and similarly when she goes to the oncology ward or cancer specialist she is not in the same boat as the other women there.

“She does not fit into either category where she should be able to have the feelings of identity and solidarity with a big group. She falls in between and it is profoundly difficult and challenging and it is largely unseen and unknown.”

Amazing work

The Andrea Kearney Fund is a small but growing niche fund that makes one-off donations to its beneficiaries, to many women who find themselves in the same position as Peter’s late wife, who can use the money they receive as they choose. To date, the fund has raised around £40,000.  On the advice of the Association of Breast Care Nurses the fund specifically (though not solely) supports mothers diagnosed during their baby’s first year since defining cancer during pregnancy is notoriously difficult.

With the recession showing little sign of let-up, the Andrea Kearney Fund, in common with other charity fundraisers, finds it increasingly challenging to organise the fundraising dinner.

Many charity organisers have had to cancel events, particularly annual large-scale fundraisers, while Peter, like some others, has opted to switch to an 18-month cycle for the dinner rather than its previous annual format. Their next dinner will be held in the Radisson Hotel in Glasgow next Saturday.

Guests can be assured that this unique fund is supporting women at their most vulnerable and those who receive its assistance are truly grateful. In return for their support Peter is making sure that he and his team give an evening to remember. Fortunately, the team includes his brother, actor Tony Kearney whose showbusiness friends are always keen to get involved. At this dinner this month will be newly-wed River City couple Malcolm Hamilton and Liz Buchanan played by Eileen McCallum and Johnnie Beattie.

Heading the entertainment bill will be Michelle McManus who wanted to tell readers: “Your support is crucial and has made a huge difference to many women’s lives. I hope you have booked your place for what will be a wonderful evening May 19.”

Great support

As well as the main event of the dinner the fund is boosted by the usual fundraising events. Five children means a hefty workload for a single dad but it also ensures a sizeable band of fellow fundraisers. Following their dad’s example the children are keen to find ways to boost funds. Louisa, 16 has run a couple of 10k runs and Joseph, 11, who has inherited his mother’s artistic abilities, designs Christmas cards for the fund.

The eponymous fund is a legacy to be proud of and Peter is grateful that he has had the opportunity to help women like Andrea. But it is in bringing up their children that he most honours her memory.

Louisa  and Thomas, 13, are pupils at St Luke’s High School in Barrhead and, in August, Philip will join Joseph and Christopher, 8, who attend St Thomas’ Primary in Neilston. Peter has been able to help others in the saddest of circumstances and, in turn, he has been open to the support that comes his way. He is especially grateful to the children’s schools.

“I could not have asked for more from their schools,” he said. “Only the other day I went to St Luke’s to be presented with a cheque for the proceeds of a fashion show. The fund is part of the life of the school and that lends an openness which means the children don’t feel that they shouldn’t talk about their loss.”

They are all doing well at school and in their various activities. In easy conversations and passing references Andrea is a constant presence and guiding influence in their lives. Even so, they have suffered a devastating loss.

“Physically they are all thriving but emotionally it is hard to say because you simply don’t know how it would have been,” Mr Kearney said. “How do you quantify an absence of a person who was irreplaceable and a presence that was so huge?”

A stay-at-home mum since the birth of Louisa, Andrea passionately held the view that the first three years were pivotal to a child’s development and set the tone for the rest of their lives.

“She had an instinctive awareness and it was almost as if she was preparing for the future by intensifying her involvement in those pivotal years,” Peter said. “The children—even Philip—have benefited from that.

“For all her soft and gentle character she was not someone who would go with the flow. She had an inner strength and was unwavering in her approach. It all comes back to Andrea’s influence and I am getting the return on her investment.”

— Tickets for the Andrea Kearney Dinner on May 19 can be booked online at http://www.andreakearney.org. More information on the Andrea Kearney Fund and how readers can help can also be found at on the website

 

Comments - One Response

  1. Simon says:

    Peter Kearney has my upmost respect for the way he has coped after the sad death of his wife.

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