11 Aug 2022

Incredible 100km Hulk Walk by inspirational Donegal man who is living with a brain tumour

"Hulk told me to walk so I walked"

Joseph Irwin

Joseph Irwin will walk from Donegal Town to Sliabh Liag and back for two causes very close to his heart

An inspirational Donegal Town man is undertaking a 100km walk which he plans to complete over two days.

This is in spite of - or indeed, because of - the fact that he is living with a brain tumour.

In undertaking the 100km walk from Donegal Town to Sliabh Liag and back, Joseph Irwin aims to raise €5,000 to be divided between two causes very close to his heart. They are  Brain Tumour Ireland which has been a big support throughout his own journey, and Donegal Community Hospital where his father Victor is a long term patient.

Mr Irwin has been a familiar sight on roads in the area since undergoing treatment for the tumour. His daily walks with his dog Jessie have been a big part of his recovery, thanks to none other than Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo who had the same type of tumour as Mr Irwin. 

The benign tumour, Acoustic Neuroma, develops on the balance (vestibular) and auditory (cochlear) nerves that lead from the inner ear to the brain.

“I lost my hearing on the affected side and now have tinnitus and balance issues,” said Mr Irwin, who turned 40 recently.  

“I get extremely bad headaches and pain where the tumour is pressing against. I get numbness and tingling on the left side of my face and get extremely tired.

“Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk) was diagnosed with the same brain tumour in 2001 and his advice was to walk, so I did and I have walked at least 10km every day since May 2020 and many, many more before that.”

Mr Irwin went from short walks in the early days, to comfortably walking 20K or more a day now.

“You soon build up.” he said. “And even if you only take one step more than yesterday, that is a good achievement.

“We are blessed here in Donegal to have such a beautiful place to walk. I would recommend it to everybody. Even if you can’t walk far, anything you do has benefits for the body and for mental health.”

In preparation for his 100km walk, Mr Irwin recently undertook the scenic coast road at Muckross Head.

“For me, it is not about taking the shortest roads,” he said. “I want to take the nicest roads and enjoy them.

“We have so much natural beauty here that it is a joy to walk, to move at a pace where you can take it all in. 

I also wanted to take on a section with hills as part of my preparation, and it went very well. On saying that, there are few hills as challenging as Mullinacrick where I live - that hill has prepared me well for anything!”

As well as being thankful for the physical and emotional benefits of his daily walks, Mr Irwin has a lot of gratitude for everyone who has supported him.

“I would like to thank my family, especially my mother Kathleen who is an absolute rock,” he said. 

“My Dad suffered a stroke, and I was diagnosed with the tumor. It has been a lot for her to deal with these last few years, but she has been amazing.”

Brain Tumour Ireland also provided a lot of support to Mr Irwin. 

“They have a support group in the Cancer Care West Centre in Letterkenny and they have been fantastic,” he said. 

“They wanted to set up somewhere that wasn’t Dublin, and they discovered that the incidence rate in Donegal is a lot higher than the rest of the country. 

“My whole point of doing this is to give something back and to raise awareness of the great work that they do.”

Mr Irwin’s father Victor is a long-term patient in Donegal Community Hospital, and the family are deeply appreciative of the quality of care he receives.

“It means a lot to us as a family,” said Mr Iriwn. “He received very good care at the Stroke Unit in Sligo too. Now that he is at Donegal Community Hospital, it helps that he knows people, that there are familiar faces among the nurses looking after him.

“They have been such a support to us when we couldn’t visit Dad because of Covid. We were able to go to the window and chat with him there. It helped a lot at a difficult time. 

“They went through so much themselves, having Covid in the hospital, but they still always went the extra mile to keep us informed about everything that was going on, and to go the extra mile to look after Dad. They really went above and beyond.” 

Mr Irwin would like to thank Dr Peter Kardos, Dr Catherine Blair, Dr Emma O’Doherty and all the team at Old School Surgery; his care team at Beaumont Hospital; those who looked cared for his father in Sligo Hospital, and those who are looking after him in Donegal Community Hospital; Rev David Huss for his support; barber Denis O’Gorman for his help in brainstorming ideas; and everyone who has donated or supported the Irwin family in any way.

He also thanks sponsors Herron Auto where Victor worked for many years, as well as Lough Eske Castle Hotel, Magee’s, Specsavers, George Irwin Hardware, Super Valu, Begley’s Pharmacy, Donegal Plumbing and Heating.

Anyone who wishes to support Mr Irwin and donate to these two very worthwhile causes can do so on the page Hulk100KIn2Days by Joseph Irwin.

In addition, donation boxes are available locally at Mullin’s Shop, Texaco Holmes Service Station, Circle K McIntyre's Filling station, Denis's Barber Shop and Rory's Auto Spares Limited.

Mr Irwin is encouraging people who donate to ‘strike a pose’ in a nod to his signature ‘Joe’s Pose’ that he struck many times in his travels around the world in his younger years.

The Donegal Town man has always embraced life, but has an even greater appreciation for it now. He hopes that in undertaking this challenge, others will share that appreciation and learn to see that no matter what life brings, there is beauty and hope all around us. 

He would like to share a quote from Castaway:

Tomorrow the sun will rise
Who knows what the tide could bring

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