Some days I would wake up and I could easily appreciate the beauty of the world that I was leaving behind, although it does make me upset that I will not experience the feeling of living that I had on the bike or down in the gym, or that I will never see my sister walk up the aisle next to the love of her life, or that I will never get to travel the world now and see places like New Zealand, Asia or America or that I now won’t get the chance to see my four best friends do as good in life as I know they will. But I have to remember that God is using me; whether as a symbol for people to appreciate life more or whether his first two mountains weren’t high enough for me, all I do know is that I am walking with Him even though is is along his path.
Donal Walsh is the Kerry teenager who touched so many lives when he came to prominence through his writings and subsequent appearance on Brendan O’Connor’s The Saturday Night Show.
He was born and raised in Co Kerry, went to Primary School in The Spa, Tralee, continued to secondary school to Tralee CBS, played football with Kerin’s O’Rahilly’s and Rugby with Tralee RFC. A passionate player who won an U12 county medal and a determined youngster who craved perfection in all he tried.
Aged 12 Donal was diagnosed with Bone Cancer in his tibia and after an operation to give him a prosthetic knee and nine months of chemotherapy Donal came back to the playing field not as a trainer but as a coach to his peers. They respected him as the fitness coach because they knew that whatever he asked of them was only the minimum he had asked of himself to learn to walk again in six weeks. They saw Donal for the man he was and played their games for the hero they saw.
In February 2012 the Cancer returned. This time it was to his lung. Donal had again to undergo surgery to have half of his lung removed and endured another round of chemotherapy treatment until June. In order to increase his lung capacity and for rehabilitation he took up cycling and reached regular trips of up to 60k. Donal joined the crossrugbylegends on their inaugural cycle that year from Moll’s Gap to Killarney and led the tour into his home town of Tralee to a rousing reception.
In October 2012 Donal was diagnosed for the third, and ultimately final, time with tumours in five places and a further number of lesions. This was to be his biggest battle. A teenager grew into a man the nation came to respect. Over the years Donal had raised funds totalling €50,000 for Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children and in his final battle this grew to €65,000. Donal took to writing in his last months and told of his story of his battle with cancer and what it took each time to fight his way back to living life. He wrote about his anger at teenage suicide while he was battling to get as much out of living his life. He wrote too of Climbing God’s Mountains and how difficult the journey was but his his faith had allowed him to reach the mountain top and scream from it!
In March 2013 Donal received the Kerry’s Eye/Radio Kerry Local Hero’s Award, one of many he had received over the years. What was different about this one was that came and interviewed him about his essay on his life to date and his fundraising. They asked him if he had any other writings and the Suicide Plea article came and was published. As a result of this Donal rose to national and international prominence. A hero. Donal died two months later on May 12th, 2013.
He is resting in peace.
Elma Walsh (Donal’s mother) will speak at a November Liturgy of Remembrance for our faithful departed at Oranmore Church on Thursday 19th of November at 7:30pm. Everyone is welcome.