Charlie Redmond enjoys a legendary status among GAA supporters that transcends county rivalries. The three-time All Star winner enjoyed famous victories with ‘The Dubs’ in the 90s, and his fair share of stinging defeats throughout an impressive career. No loss on the field of play could ever compare though, with the sadness Charlie and his family have endured in recent years.
On Today with Seán O’Rourke, Charlie spoke about the experience of losing his wife, Gráinne, to brain cancer in 2016.
They met during a special delivery in The Rotunda. Charlie had to witness a birth as part of his ambulance training and Gráinne, a student midwife, was assisting. Coincidentally, the baby born that day carried the Redmond surname – no relation.
Fast forward around 30 years and while on holiday, Gráinne didn’t feel great. She was mixing up her words, had headaches and was having issues with her balance. Anxious that it might be something serious, Charlie decided to contact former GAA rival, Meath man and consultant surgeon at the Mater Hospital, Gerry McEntee. Following an MRI, Charlie got the call he’d been dreading. He still remembers it vividly.
“Charlie it’s bad. She has a 5cm tumour. You were right. You’ve got to go to Beaumont and you’ve got to go now”.
Gráinne had stage 4 brain cancer. She was operated on within days, but the aggressive nature of her condition meant that surgeons were only ever buying her time. There was no escaping the inevitable. Charlie was told she had 18 months to live, but in fact they went on to enjoy three more years together.
They decided to share the news with their brothers and sisters initially. Parents and children would be told when they had to be. Recalling the day he told Gráinne’s mother that her daughter’s illness was terminal, brought Charlie to tears.
“It was so hard. It was actually harder telling her than telling the kids.”
Indeed, despite her diagnosis, Gráinne would often say to Charlie “there’s people worse off than us, imagine if it was one of the kids.” Her mother didn’t have to imagine.
The Redmonds made the most of those final years. Trips to London’s West End, taking the girls to New York, cheering on their beloved Dubs at the 2015 All-Ireland Final, all of these experiences provided precious memories to comfort them in years to come.
Charlie was keen that Gráinne be able to see out her days at home, but as her illness progressed that proved impossible. Her palliative care team made the call and she was admitted to St. Francis’ Hospice where she passed away on 2nd December 2016.
You can hear Charlie’s conversation in full on Today with Seán O’Rourke here.
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