Although Stage IV is incurable, it doesn't mean that you have to stop participating in life, or playing golf

Although Stage IV is incurable, it doesn't mean that you have to stop participating in life, or playing golf
 Judy Byrne Murray at Lough Erne, where she finished 11th overall in the Links and Lough Erne Challenge this summer

Judy Byrne Murray at Lough Erne, where she finished 11th overall in the Links and Lough Erne Challenge this summer

When an emotional Cristie Kerr won the recent Lacoste Ladies Open de France and dedicated her victory to the memory of two friends who lost their battle with breast cancer, she didn't hold back.

"I played for cancer, and we lost Cassandra (Kirkland) and we lost a good friend of mine back home on Tuesday to cancer,” said an emotional Kerr. “I’m sorry, but f***  cancer.

“I played for them, and I played for myself. I’m so sorry to say the F-word, but I’m so sick of people losing people to cancer.” 

Such is the emotional toll caused by cancer that it's not the F-word that bothers people so much as the C-word itself.

But one Irish woman has shown her determination to help as many people learn to deal with a devastating cancer diagnosis as she can by starting a support group for people with Stage IV, incurable, metastatic cancer in Dublin.

Judy Byrne Murray is just 51 but having been diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer more than two and a half years ago, she's applied a golfer's "one-shot-at -time" philosophy to her battle with the disease and had the year of her life on the golf course.

In August, she pulled off what must go down as one of the most inspirational golfing feats of the year when she won the Lady Captain’s Prize at Edmondstown by a whopping six points, achieving her career ambition and getting her handicap cut to 12 into the bargain.

 Judy Byrne Murray at her club, Edmondstown

Judy Byrne Murray at her club, Edmondstown

A feisty competitor (and a mother of three), this former hockey player and award-winning cricket wicket-keeper had been aiming to win the Lady Captain's ever since she took up the game in 2002.

But while her win led to her being named as Edmondstown’s Lady Golfer of the Year, her love of the game not only gives her great pleasure and precious time with friends, it is also a constant reminder to her to live every moment to the fullest and leave the “what ifs” of tomorrow to one side for a few hours.

As October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, Judy is keen to make anyone with Stage IV Metastatic Cancer aware that they are not alone and that while Pink Days are wonderful, few people like to talk about the Stage IV metastatic cancer sufferers and how crucial it is to raise funds for research and investigation

“Sadly, approximately 30 percent of all women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancers will re-present at a later date as Stage IV,” said Judy, who set up a metastatic group that meets in the ARC Cancer Support Centre on Eccles St. in Dublin on the first Wednesday in every month.

“It’s a worry that many women constantly live in fear of once they have completed their treatment. I believe that my interest in golf and being able to stay in the moment has made a huge difference to how I handle my prognosis,” added Judy, who holed the winning putt for Edmondstown in last year’s Intermediate Cup Eastern District final at Milltown, giving the ladies’ club its first pennant. 

“To me, cancer is not unlike golf — you must keep your mental strength by staying in the moment and not thinking ahead. It’s day by day, shot by shot and we all know that it is that ability to stay in the moment that wins competitions!"

Although Stage IV is incurable, it does not mean that you have to stop participating in life, or in my case, playing golf.
— Judy Byrne on Metastatic Breast Cancer

Speaking just before the recent National MBC Awareness Day on October 13, he said: “For me, tomorrow’s awareness day should highlight the people at Stage IV who might just have had that diagnosis and literally can't cope or even go out. 

 Judy Byrne Murray was Lady Captain of Edmondstown in 2014

Judy Byrne Murray was Lady Captain of Edmondstown in 2014

“Lots of people just want to curl up and die when they get the diagnosis, but there is a lot more living to do!"

ARC provides crucial support to cancer sufferers and their families and Judy is encouraging all lady captains looking ahead to their charity days next year to think of ARC and the services they provide, not just to the people with cancer, but to their family members, friends and carers, through their Drop-in Centres.

“Our group is open to all those who have a metastatic diagnosis, we are all ages and from all walks of life yet we are comfortable in each others company as everyone in that room knows exactly how the other feels,” Judy says.

“We chat and exchange information, but above all, we laugh. That sounds odd but you have to have a bit of black humour. Life still goes on and laughter is the best medicine.”

While few people have her mental strength — she even took her Law Degree as a mature student at Trinity College in 2006 — that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have her dark days, especially around special occasions such as Christmas.

“I choose to be happy and enjoy life,” she says, sprinkling our chat with dollops of great humour. “There is no point in being all doom and gloom — sure it is out of my control.  

“Although Stage IV is incurable, it does not mean that you have to stop participating in life, or in my case, playing golf.

“I try to enjoy each day and not think about tomorrow because it is promised to none of us. And I love golf, even though there were times when every bone in my body was aching. 

“I have breast cancer metastasized in my lungs and in my spine and my sternum and my hip. So thank God, it's not affecting my shoulders!”

 Judy with the late Christy O'Connor Jnr

Judy with the late Christy O'Connor Jnr

Family support is huge and Judy’s father Tony, the former Shamrock Rovers footballer, was one of the first to urge her to live in the moment. 

Recalling the day she shared her devastating news, she said: “Dad has always been my hero and he just said to me, ‘You have to think you are like those prisoners of war on the death marches. Those who looked 500 miles ahead were the ones that keeled over and were shot. You have to only see 100 yards at a time.’ 

“So we are all on the conveyor belt, and we just have to put it out of our minds and try to enjoy each moment. 

“That's what I try to do. Sometimes you can't help but think ahead, but having Stage IV breast cancer really does help me stay in the moment. 

“I go to St Vincent’s Hospital for my treatment every three weeks, and I am well at the moment, and I feel good, and hopefully, I will be awake tomorrow.

“But by and large I really don't think about it, I just cheer myself on and try to get out there and do it.”

ARC Drop-in Centres