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Eimear dies just days after her wedding

INSPIRATION: 25-year-old Eimear Gooderman (née Smyth) passed away last week INSPIRATION: 25-year-old Eimear Gooderman (née Smyth) passed away last week
By Michael Jackson

THE father of a young West Belfast cancer battler has urged people to “keep her memory alive” by signing the stem cell donor register after her passing.
25-year-old Eimear Gooder-man (née Smyth) passed peacefully in hospital on Saturday, June 27, just a week after her wedding to her husband Philip.
Her father, Sean Smyth, had previously launched a campaign to encourage people to become stem cell donors after his daughter was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, in September 2016. After an incredibly inspiring campaign, Eimear found a stem cell donor match and underwent a transplant in November.
However, Eimear soon began suffering seizures after having a rare allergic reaction to medication that is vital to her treatment.
“She wanted people to know that her transplant was a success,” Sean said.
“She beat cancer, but she was just so unlucky that she was allergic to the anti-rejection drugs. She was the fifth person in 17 years in Ireland to have that reaction, so they had to treat her with steroids, but the steroids attacked the bowel and she lost her large bowel.
“It was this constant battle to get things under control, but in then end it was just too much for her. Her body just gave up on her. The next course of treatment would have been extremely harsh and it would have been unfair on her.
“When we think about what future she would have had, we don’t think she would have been happy. It wouldn’t have been Eimear – she would have been a shell of the young woman she was before she took ill. She was already starting to go deaf, her eyes were getting troubles, so Eimear couldn’t have been out and vibrant, and bright, and happy – she wouldn’t have wanted to survive.”
Throughout her treatment, Coolnasilla woman Eimear had defied all odds in fighting her illness, providing inspiration to the thousands of local people who have signed up to the stem cell donor register. According to her father, she was still fighting during her final days.
“It’s amazing when we think about that and we think about what she has been through,” he said.
“We’re trying not to frighten people. There will be other mummies and daddies like us, but they shouldn’t panic when they hear about stem cells. Eimear was just unlucky. She beat the cancer. It’s amazing when you think about the amount of chemo she has had, the amount of drugs she has had pumped into her body, the four trips to intensive care, and she kept fighting – she kept surprising the doctors. Even on Friday night, before she fell asleep, I asked her how she was and she said ‘daddy, I’m feeling ok’. I asked her what she reckoned about the doctors who said she had a few hours to live, and she said ‘I’m going to fight this’ and she did – she didn’t die until eight days later.”
Before her passing, Eimear got the chance to marry her fiancé Philip during a “beautiful” three-day celebration.
“We were told things were bad on Wednesday night,” Sean said.
“She asked me to get her a priest and I told her it was quarter past midnight, so she said ‘get him up’.
We phoned round, we got the priest, Father Adrian Eastwood, who came round out of bed bleary-eyed with his order of service for marriage and last rights. I’m not sure what kind of service it was, but as far as we’re concerned they’re married in the eyes of God.
“She was so ill that night, so we were expecting her to die at any moment so we didn’t have time to think about. She had a horrible night – 13 hours of absolute agony. It was 10.30 the next morning by the time a doctor came, and then palliative care came. By lunch time the next day she was up sitting up in bed talking like anyone would. We used me and my wife’s wedding rings for the ceremony. My ring kept falling off Philip – he lost it twice. At about 5 o’clock he walked in without the ring and Eimear told him to go get their wedding rings that they had picked in January.”
He continued: “We got back up the hospital on Thursday night, and all of her bridesmaids and wedding party had come down to see her. The pageboy was there, so we got a medical tray and decorated it with blue hair bands, and we did the wedding rings ceremony and the exchanging of vows. In the middle of that her friend was coming down to see her, so she asked her to bring a cheeseburger – Eimear hadn’t had junk food in months. So she got a cheeseburger out of McDonald’s and cut it like a wedding cake. She took a wee bite and then gave it to Philip. It was so much fun. You could see the happiness in her eyes. She was so at comfort with her friends and family around her. She really was happy.”
Eimear spent the final day of her wedding celebration having a wedding cake ceremony, surrounded by her friends and family.
“When it came to her wedding she always wanted a three-day celebration; the night before, the day of the wedding and the day after the wedding. She had a three-day wedding after all,” Sean said.
“She fell asleep on the Friday night and she never really woke up. She woke up on Saturday morning about 4.30 in the morning, asked her mummy for a kiss and told her she loved her, then she gave me a kiss and told me she loved me. After that she asked for Philip, she told him she loved him, and she fell asleep. That was the last she ever spoke to us. It was beautiful.”
On Saturday, Eimear’s funeral took place at St Teresa’s Church and, true to her wishes, the ceremony was a celebration of her life.
“The funeral was beautiful,” Sean said.
“It was a bit strange and surreal, almost wedding-like. We tried to make it as joyous as possible. Every father probably says the same about their child, but I know Eimear was special. She touched people’s lives in a way that once you met her, she was in your life and she didn’t want any doom and gloom. She said to me ‘daddy, I don’t want any black at the funeral – that does my head in.’ She wanted people to wear bright colours and have a good day out where they could remember her.
“She gave clear instructions. She wanted buried in her wedding dress, with her brown wig and her makeup perfect, and that’s what we did. She got everything she wanted. I think we did her proud. I got to walk her up the aisle and then I passed her over to Philip, and he walked her out. It was meaningful, and it wasn’t sombre, which was exactly what she wanted.”
Sean added that people should remember Eimear by becoming a donor for stem cells, blood and organs.
“Eimear said ‘if people want to remember me then get them to sign up to be a donor for stem cells, for organs, or even blood’. She was getting so much blood during her treatment, sometimes two or three bags a week, and without them she wouldn’t have survived for so long.”
He added: “Every time somebody becomes a donor then that’s keeping Eimear’s memory alive.
People aged 16-30 can become stem cells donors via Anthony Nolan Trust and those aged 30-55 can do so with DKMS.

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