“A big personality, a bigger laugh, and the biggest hugs.”
That is how Diarmuid described his Dad. Dermot O’Driscoll was a man of the people, a teacher from a farming background, with a love for the land and a gift for connecting to people.
Dermot was the principal in Scoil An Athar Tadhg, Carrignavar, from 1994 to his retirement in 2017. He had a huge impact during his time in the school, expanding it to a 13 teacher staff, campaigning to create an Autism Unit, as well as putting in place plans to build a completely new school, which opened its doors last month.
“Dad loved teaching. He had a particular focus on special needs, so I think setting up the ASD Unit in our school was one of his greatest achievements in his career” said Diarmuid who is also a teacher there.
GAA was his other love. He held many roles in their local GAA Club in Carrignavar, from player to Chairman. Dermot loved his community dearly, and never missed an opportunity to help out or be involved.
”Some of my fondest memories of Dad are of us jumping into cars and going to matches of all levels around the country. He gave me a great love for sport.” said Diarmuid.
Dermot’s cancer journey dates back to early 2019, when his family noticed a couple of small things, putting them down to tiredness. In May, he was diagnosed with Lymphoma, one of the most common types of cancer. However, Dermot was unfortunate with his diagnosis. He had B Cell Lymphoma which meant treatment wasn’t going to be straightforward.
“Dad was put on many different chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments which just didn’t suit him. Sometimes making him very sick, and not able to run a full course of treatment.”
“He was very lucky, he came under the care of Professor Derek Power. They built a great relationship together, and it wasn’t uncommon to meet Dad talking with Derek about anything from the Middleton hurling to the latest form of treatment for Lymphoma!” said Diarmuid.
Over time, and after trialling many treatments, it was determined that the next step was to build Dermot up for Stem Cell treatment in St James’ Hospital in Dublin. Sadly, test results showed that he wasn’t well enough to go through with this.
“He never would have admitted it, but that was a huge blow. However, one of Dads great strengths was his ability to park any negative and move on” said Diarmuid.
The weekend before Christmas 2022, Diarmuid joined his dad in hospital to watch a soccer game. “We were all sitting in the bed having chats, you would’ve known he was sick, but there was no danger he was going anywhere. Three days later, it was like chalk and cheese. We felt like we went from a high to an incredible low” said Diarmuid.
Even though Dermot had gone through spells of being unwell like this since 2019, this was the first time that Diarmuid and his family thought “God like he’s actually not going to fight back from this”. At this point Dermot had unfortunately stopped responding to treatment.
Dermot sadly passed away on the 29th of December 2022, at 68 years of age.
“A few things you’d miss about my Dad are his big laugh, his big voice and he loved giving big hugs to people. Grace, my wife just had our third child, and something we remarked on is we missed getting that big hug, his big warm presence. There’s a bit of a void left there alright.” said Diarmuid
Showing the same determination and strength as his Dad, and in their shared love for sport, Diarmuid decided to run the Cork City Marathon in memory of his late father, and in aid of the Mercy.
“10 years ago I did my first marathon. I remember running towards the Phoenix Park, I could see a figure in the distance and I wondered ‘who is this crazy man standing up on the gate?’. As I got closer I realised it was my own father, standing on a rubbish bin encouraging absolutely everyone!” said Diarmuid. He signed up for the marathon the night of his Dads funeral.
“It just felt right. I wanted to give back in some way, because Dad was a big advocate of the Mercy and he got such wonderful care and treatment there.”
Diarmuid ran the full marathon, while his mom Theresa, wife Grace, family friends and work colleagues did a 10k walk. They raised an incredible €18,413.95. Their family were blown away by how many people connected to their Dad, and were touched by his story. And equally by the generosity of people.
“I have been so proud of Dad through the years, and how he gave me such strength whether that be professionally, in sport, or in life. He played such an important role in my life, so it’s still very raw and surreal that he isn’t around.” said Diarmuid.
Families like Dermot’s will be going through similar journeys this Christmas, and we at the Mercy Hospital Foundation want to be able to support them – but we need your help.
Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas from all of us at The Mercy.
CEO Mercy Hospital Foundation.
P.S At this time of year, no donation is too small.
Your generosity could make the world of
difference to those with cancer, and their families