Brain Tumour Ireland thanks Tipperary ‘Hats Off Heroes’

Four people from Tipperary are among the nominees for Brain Tumour Ireland’s ‘Hats Off Heroes’ initiative, taking place as part of Brain Tumour Awareness Week, currently running until Saturday, 6th November.

The ‘Hats Off Heroes’ initiative is offering those who have been affected by brain tumours an opportunity to thank those people, who, through acts of support and kindness, helped them around their diagnosis. A shortlist of ‘Hats Off Heroes’ nominees will have their names put in a hat for a special prize draw, while a selection of the submitted stories will be highlighted on Brain Tumour Ireland’s social media channels during Brain Tumour Awareness Week.

Bernie Cummins, nee Murphy, who is originally from Killenaule and now lives in Carmel, New York, has been nominated a ‘Hats Off Hero” by her sister Martina. Explaining why she wanted to nominate Bernie, Martina said, “I wish to nominate my sister Bernie, who hopped on a plane from her home in New York to nurse me after I had a brain tumour removed three years ago. Bernie stayed with me, having previously done it for my sister Margo who passed away within six months of her diagnosis. Then, our other sister was diagnosed with a brain tumour and Bernie was home again. Having lost my dad, within a week of his passing my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Bernie flew home again. Bernie has always been there for us.”

Reacting to being nominated, Bernie said, “I am so honoured my sister Martina chose me. My sisters and brother are the true heroes, dealing with brain tumours on a daily basis. Their courage in dealing with this is amazing.”

Rachel and Aoife Holloway were nominated ‘Hats Off Heroes’ by their sister Melissa who lives in Carrick-on-Suir, where they grew up together. Aoife now lives in Portlaw, Co Waterford, while Rachel lives in Thurles.

Melissa said she wanted to nominate Rachel and Aoife because “My sisters saved my life. They stayed by my side in the hospital, helped me recover, brought me to appointments, washed and cleaned for me. They travelled long journeys every day to the hospital and stayed all day with me. They kept me positive all through my operation and afterwards. I got through with their support and I will be forever grateful to them.”

Reacting to being nominated, Rachel said, “I’m blown away. Melissa was diagnosed with a benign meningioma in 2019 when she was in her 40s and she underwent surgery in Cork University Hospital followed by respite care in St Brigit’s District Hospital, Carrick-on-Suir. Myself and Aoife were there to ask all the questions on Melissa’s behalf.  We’re very close as sisters. That experience has really brought us together. Melissa is a miracle and such a positive person. She went on to raise €2,000 for St Brigid’s Hospital. The heroes are Melissa and the staff in Cork University Hospital and St Brigid’s. The care that they gave Melissa was extraordinary.”

Suzanne Ryan, who is from Thurles and lives in Cappawhite, was nominated a ‘Hats Off Hero’ by Kathy Higgins from Donegal. Explaining why she chose to nominate Suzanne, Kathy said, “I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma tumour back in 2016 and had surgery in 2017. I didn’t know Suzanne but had contacted Brain Tumour Ireland as I was desperate to talk to someone and didn’t know who to contact. I had moved back to Donegal from Wicklow to live with my parents as I was too ill to support myself. BTI put me in contact with Suzanne. She was so open and reassuring that it comforted me so much to know that some else had experienced the same brain tumour that I had and was doing well.”

Reacting to being nominated, Suzanne, who is mother to Faye (3) and Mia (6 months), said, “I can’t believe it. Kathy must feel like I helped her. I had the same brain tumour diagnosis as Kathy — an acoustic neuroma, which is a growth on the cranial nerve — in 2010, when I was 22. My first surgery was in 2011; then the tumour came back and I had repeat surgery in 2015, followed by facial palsy surgery in 2016 and a gold weight inserted in my eye in 2016. A nurse in Beaumont Hospital had put me in contact with someone around the same age who had experienced a similar brain tumour. I then linked in with Cork Brain Tumour Support Group, which do a lot of work with Brain Tumour Ireland, and I told Brain Tumour Ireland to put anyone who was in a similar situation to the one I had been in to get in touch with me.”

Alannah Sheehan from Templederry has been nominated a ‘Hats Off Hero’ by Julie Hartnett, who lives near Charleville in North Cork. Julie underwent surgery for a second brain tumour in November 2020, followed by 30 sessions of radiotherapy and nine months of chemotherapy in Cork University Hospital.

Explaining why she nominated Alannah, Julie said, “Alannah also has a brain tumour. She has an Instagram page for awareness called @worth_fighting4. She has given me such information about this awful disease, but she is also great fun and so positive with a grade four tumour. Alannah is a beacon for us all going through similar illnesses.”

In reaction to being nominated, Alannah — who helps support others affected by brain tumours through her Instagram account @worth_fighting4, which has around 30,000 followers — said, “It’s just amazing to be nominated by Julie. Everyone who has a brain tumour is going through their own thing and for Julie to take the time to nominate me when she herself is in the thick of things with her own illness is so nice.”

Commenting on the ‘Hats Off Heroes’ nominations, Chair of Brain Tumour Ireland Peter Cosgrove said, “These stories not only highlight the tremendous generosity of spirit and acts of kindness that people are capable of in times of need, but they also shine a light on the difficult journeys, along with the strength and resilience, of people who are affected by brain tumours. More than 400 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour in Ireland each year, with many contacting Brain Tumour Ireland for support when they receive their diagnosis. On their behalf, we are privileged to learn about these stories and to thank the everyday ‘Hats Off Heroes’ who have helped them.”

#Hats Off Heroes’ is running until Saturday, 6th November, and

nominations can be made through a special online form on

Wear A Hat Day

Also part of Brain Tumour Awareness Week, Friday, 5th November is the annual Wear A Hat Day, when people across the country are invited to put on their favourite hat, take a selfie, post it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #WearAHatDay and then text BTI to 50300 to donate €4 to Brain Tumour Ireland. The money raised will go towards funding the work of Brain Tumour Ireland in providing up-to-the-minute information, support and resources to help people affected by brain tumours in Ireland. The best selfie will win a hat designed by Brain Tumour Awareness Week milliner partner Lina Stein, who will be choosing the winner.