FOUR years after he sailed around Ireland as part of a fundraising campaign, Limerick cancer survivor Chris Egan will take to the seas again – only this time he’s battling a debilitating sight condition.
In 2013, Chris Egan and David Bevan, who were both cancer patients, completed a remarkable 1,200 nautical mile journey that included stopovers in Dublin and Cork for treatment.
However, Chris’ health problems are far from over and two years ago, he was diagnosed with a retinitis pigmentosa which will eventually lead to the complete loss of his sight.
The Rathkeale postman is losing all peripheral vision and whatever remaining vision he has is affected by light.
“I only see shadows now most of the time”, the avid yachtsman said as he announced details of his new sailing challenge.
Chris, who recently qualified in independent living skills training with the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, is retracing his round Ireland sailing challenge when he leaves Limerick during this May’s Riverfest.
Explaining his condition, Chris said that “if I was to look a person’s face, I would just see either their right eye or the left eye, not both. In saying that, the sight I have is good, but limited – just like looking down a tunnel and not being able to see anything outside of that”.
He is determined to do one last round Ireland fundraising campaign as a gesture of thanks to those who have helped him in his latest struggle. He says that he is undertaking the round Ireland challenge in a bid to repay that help and to raise awareness and funds.
“There have been moments when it has been tough and realising the challenge of dealing with this because it is a condition that only worsens,” Chris explains.
Chris, who uses a long cane to overcome obstacles like kerbs and steps, says that his ability to cope is helped by learning new skills and tapping into his memory of when he had full sight.
In 2010, he was diagnosed with lymphoma and Hodgkins Disease that required surgery and chemotherapy.
“You just keep going one day at a time – but you have moments. Thankfully I have a huge interest in sailing and that helps with lots of very good people around when you need them.
“Facing a cancer battle, as many know, was a challenge but visual impairment is different because it is a worsening condition. There is no light at the end of this tunnel, if you pardon the pun,” he adds.
James McCormack, Commodore of Foynes Yacht Club, who will assist Chris in his latest sailing challenge along with fellow club members, said that he knows the postman to “be always hugely positive for almost 30 years.
“This is another hurdle in his life and he will overcome it and I will support him whatever way I can.”
Mr McCormack said that his yacht will be used for the sailing challenge with Chris and two other crew members from the County Limerick yacht club.
Chris’ sailing challenge will raise money for Irish Guide Dogs for the blind and the RNLI.
“Anything we do on the water is hugely dependant on the RNLI and we want to support them but the Irish Guide Dogs will be the main benefactors.
“We will sail around Ireland and leave Riverfest on May 1 and hit off down to the bottom of the River Shannon, turn right (at Loop Head) and keep going around until we come back again”, he said.
Fundraising events have been planned for March and April in the lead up to the May Bank Holiday departure.