I WORKED on TV3’s Ireland AM as a stylist for over a decade and left my beloved Ireland for sunny Spain in 2016.
I opened Joffrey’s restaurant in La Cala de Mijas with my partner, Joffrey Charles, a splendid French chef.
Channel 4 television filmed with us for six months for their programme, A New Life In The Sun, aired in early 2017. Life as a newly minted restaurateur was exceptionally difficult but nothing prepared me for the news that came in September of 2018.
Joffrey noticed a lump under my right arm. I waved his concerns away, taken up with pushing the business ever forward but the lump continued to grow and he insisted I attend a clinic. That was in August. I was referred to Costa del Sol Hospital in Marbella in September and at that appointment, all hell broke loose. I had 15 cancerous tumours in my right breast. I immediately had to have a mastectomy followed by eight months of chemotherapy, then a month of radiotherapy. Some nights I could see angels as Joffrey cradled me in his arms. Our amazing restaurant had to close.
I am supposed to have my tests in early April 2020 with a meeting scheduled with my oncologist in Marbella on April 15. The Spanish have been extraordinary to me, helping me as much as possible with my broken Spanish. I am now a whiz at Spanish medical terms with a little help from Duo Lingo.
When my treatment finished I flew to London, filmed by Channel 4, and handed in a petition at Downing Street on behalf of expats in Spain to safeguard their healthcare rights before Brexit. I haven’t to date received a reply from Number 10.
The Spanish system is under siege, I am awaiting instructions on attending those tests to see if I have beaten cancer but there is no word yet. Spaniards are dying at a rate of knots, they are the priority, not me. I have self-isolated for over two weeks and I have decided to concentrate my efforts on helping others.
I am writing to the media here in Spain, the USA, and Ireland. Especially for the Olive Press which can be relied upon for thoroughly researched and sourced material. There is so much misinformation out there and it’s causing people to panic. I am trying to stop this on all my social media accounts.
Chef Joffrey has opened a new business this month called ChefJoffrey@Home on the Costa del Sol Spain with all appropriate licenses and sanitary conditions.
His first customer was a wonderful Irish friend, Lynn Branagan Cronin who needed a night off from cooking. Chef Joffrey will deliver a free meal to the elderly every week in our community, and more as business increases.
My new nickname from an eminent journalist is ‘IBR’ – the Irish British Resistance. I must do my bit, as must we all in these dire circumstances, while relying on my native sense of humour to see this through.
My grandfather, Ned Burgess, was an Irish politician and Mayor of Cobh; my Irish mother, Ann Burgess, was a fierce activist; and my British brother Michael fought AIDS to the very end without complaint.
My darling departed mother, who battled cancer bravely as we nursed her at home, often reminded me of this poignant James Joyce quote: ‘Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age’.
Likewise, this Irish British Resistance fighter will battle boldly on, quill at the ready.