ROSCOMMON FOOTBALLER JENNY Higgins has paid tribute to her county team-mate Rochelle Mullaney for her bravery in speaking publicly about her battle with cervical cancer.
Mullaney spoke candidly and openly about her illness last week, after the 27-year-old was diagnosed with stage 3 of the cancer in February. She had been suffering from an ache in her side which she mistook to be a muscle injury that she picked up through football.
The Kilbride player told RTÉ Sport that she began her treatment in March, undergoing six rounds of chemotherapy along with 35 sessions of radiotherapy in just seven weeks.
She revealed how she had received a letter when she was 25, informing her to get a smear test which is a standard cervical screening procedure for women to give them the best chance of early detection.
Unfortunately, Mullaney did not book an appointment at the time but is receiving the vital treatment she needs now.
“Rochelle, or Rocky as we call here, is an inspiration to any woman really,” says Higgins in praise of her team-mate who is using her own personal experience to underline the importance of getting smear checks done.
“She started up the year the same way as all of us, I think that’s why it’s really hit home. She’s just a year younger than me, so it really hits home because she started the season the same way as we all do, and then to get that devastating news … a lot of people could have really taken that hard, but she’s been at training with us and she’s still giving her all to the team in the way that she can.
“And with such a positive attitude, and so encouraging of all the girls – and still battling everything she’s been through. She’s an inspiration. I know even myself, when I’m complaining maybe about a wet night at training, I just look over to the sideline and I see her and I think, ‘Well, she’d give anything just to be on the pitch and be able to play.’”
Another action-packed @RoscommonHerald sports section coming your way this week. Interview with @gaakilbride and @RoscommonLGFA player Rochelle Mullaney about her battle with cervical cancer, Sinead Kenny marks milestone appearance with a victory and all the fallout from Salthill pic.twitter.com/uVE47uqhOM
— Ian Cooney (@cooney_ian) May 24, 2021
Higgins added that Mullaney’s story has triggered a huge wave of positive feedback, inspiring several women to seek an appointment for a smear test, while also bringing awareness to the Roscommon dressing-room about cervical care.
“She has received huge feedback from other women, a lot of them in their late 20’s who have probably received that letter for that smear test but have never actually prioritised it to get it done.
“It can happen to any of us; she was going along thinking that football was the be all and end all and a really important part of her life but then she did realise that other priorities did exist and when she got the result she realised that had she got that test earlier she would have known earlier.
“It is a topic of discussion now for most women, even within our own team, is that you make sure you get it done and it has definitely raised awareness for it.
“She is a huge inspiration and she was very brave to come out the way she did. And the great news since is that a lot of girls – and I have got a lot of messages since from other people saying “oh my God, I have to get my smear test done, I have not got it done.
“Her aim is to raise awareness and promote it. She is so inspirational; a really brave character and hopefully we will see her back on the pitch before the end and it would be amazing to see.”
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Roscommon footballer Jenny Higgins was speaking following the announcement of Glenveagh Homes as new sponsors of the LGFA’s Gaelic4Girls Programme.
Mullaney is unable to play football at the moment but is still involved with the Roscommon camp and has attended their two Division 3A league games so far.
They have already secured a spot in the semi-finals of the competition and will face Sligo this weekend in the last round of group games.
Mullaney hopes to be able to return to the pitch at some stage this year, and Higgins says she is an important example to women that life can eventually return to normality after a health scare.
“She is still there on the sideline with us, she is very tuned into what is going on and she fully intends on being back on the pitch with Kilbride and Roscommon in the coming months, so we are all rallying behind her and hoping she can contribute in some shape or form.
“I think it would be a great inspiration to other women who went through something similar to know that there is life after it and you can get back to doing what you did beforehand so hopefully we will see her back on the pitch.”
You can find out more information about cervical screening and how to arrange a smear test on the HSE website.
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