By Matthew Leslie
A LISBELLAW woman has raised over £1,000 for brain tumour charities to mark the 20th anniversary of her brother’s death.
Barbara McQuigg, who runs the Tea4U Community Cafe in Enniskillen, lost her brother Barrie who had died of a brain tumour, aged 24.
Barrie had a bright future ahead of him. A talented musician and actor, he was studying English at Queen’s University before being diagnosed at the age of 19 as having a tumour on his brain.
While he was operated on, his condition was such that he was not well enough to receive any chemotherapy.
Twenty years have now elapsed and Barbara, along with two friends – Liam Benn and Seamus McBrien, set about raising money for both The Brain Tumour Charity and The Brain Tumour Research Charity, in Barrie’s memory and to help others who have been diagnosed with having a brain tumour.
Barbara said: “One of the brain tumour charities selected March as their awareness month. I suddenly thought, well it might have been 20 years and I should just pull my finger out and see if I could do a fundraiser on Facebook [for the Brain tumour charity].
“I thought I might just be able to raise £150 or so but the sum of money just kept going and going and going. That’s how all the guys I was friendly – Seamus McBrien and Liam Benn – within the wee cafe that I was running got involved.
“They didn’t even know about Barrie – how would they? But they heard about the Facebook fundraiser. Now, those guys are not on Facebook and so were not able to donate.
“But they went about fundraising in the old-fashioned way. They asked if I could provide them with a wee photo of Barrie and a wee sentence about the fundraising.
“People talk about things saying ‘Oh, I will do a fundraiser for you’ and don’t carry it through. Seamus and Liam did it.
“I also made a lot of marmalade, apple chutney and jam and sold them as well. I’ve made £130 through that. Liam and Seamus – through the sales of those CDs – they raised £934. That was for The Brain Tumour Research Charity.
“The Facebook fundraiser was not far shot of £1,400. My sister and mum did a fundraiser in the north coast and that pulled in around £1,300.
“Barrie was a complete character – the guy was bright as a button and very capable. He had a good brain and it was a pity he had a tumour in the brain. Barrie was sporty but he was particularly talented musically. He played by ear – playing piano – and he also had a lovely voice.
“He was great on the stage. He was a lead actor in school plays for many years and he really enjoyed all that side of life because he could dress up, sing and act.”
Barbara also expressed her gratitude to Barrie’s widow, Corrina, who was the love of his life and helped support him in his final years despite knowing from the first day they met of Barrie’s brain tumour.
She added: “He went to Queen’s University and, quite remarkably, got a 2:1 in his degree in English even though he battling with awful symptoms.
“They were terrible – he was having multiple and awful seizures. He was having around 19 of these seizures a day. He couldn’t move, couldn’t speak and was incapacitated completely. It was dreadful by the end.
“So how he got a 2:1, none of us really know but he was just a bright fella. He was very kind, gentle, gracious and a good laugh.
“People would say that he was funny – the guy was really funny. He was just a huge loss to everybody.
“Barrie met the love of his life as soon as he went to university – Corrina. She was this amazing girl knew the whole story about his brain tumour and decided to start a relationship with him anyway.
“They got married and sadly, they didn’t even have a full year together. Corrina is still part of our family life – she is basically just considers herself to be our sister because we’re very fond of her and she’s been amazing.
“She’s a phenomenal person and our family would love to give her credit because we still talk about how amazing it was that Corrina didn’t turn her back on Barrie. She saw all those symptoms and she didn’t say that ‘this could lead me to a path that I do not want to be going down’.
“Equally, she could have just at any point just bolted and said no thanks to the engagement ring.
“But she never did and we hold her in very, very high esteem.”
Barbara states that as well as raising the money for charity, it was important to make people aware of brain tumours and what symptoms to look for.
She added: “It’s important to point out that brain tumours affect more people under the age of 40 than any other type of cancer.
“If you have ongoing headaches, ongoing nausea, ongoing vision problems, mobility issues or speech problems, don’t be just putting it down to tiredness or epilepsy. See your GP and don’t sit on this for two years.”
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition