‘We can’t even cry any more, it is too much’: Cancer, lightning, bereavement and scam leave mother of three bereft

‘What the Butlers have endured in both personal tragedy and financial misfortune is beyond imagination,’ supporter says

A west Dublin mother of three who was diagnosed with cancer before losing her home to a lightning strike, her husband to a heart attack and almost €10,000 to scammers in a matter of months has had a GoFundMe campaign established to support her and her family.

The Butlers from Blanchardstown suffered the sequence of devastating personal tragedies over just 14 months, the heartbreak and despair combined with the financial hardship turning the lives of this tightly knit family “completely upside-down”.

Blanca and Daniel Butler shared a home in Corduff, Blanchardstown for more than 20 years along with their three children: Natalie (20), Paul (16) and Aaron (10).

Blanca worked locally as a healthcare assistant for over 18 years while husband Daniel worked in the building trade.

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In March 2023, Blanca was diagnosed with a combined brain and lung cancer.

Daniel worked in construction but took time off to care for his seriously ill wife, leaving the family with no income.

Last August a freak thunderstorm – which was widely reported on at the time – saw the Butlers’ home severely damaged after an adjoining house was struck by lightning.

Both houses were effectively destroyed. Unfortunately, the house was not insured, with the Butlers left fully financially liable for the extensive reconstruction and repairs required.

The family moved in with Daniel’s father, who lived nearby, while Blanca’s treatment continued.

In March of this year, the family suffered more heartache when a business accepted a €9,000 deposit for new windows and doors before disappearing.

Unwilling to share even more bad news with his wife, the man kept it hidden and shortly afterwards he suffered a heart attack and died in the Mater hospital on April 9th.

He was 39. His organs were donated and used in life-saving operations for three others.

Blanca is convinced the loss of thousands of euro and the resultant stress was at least partially responsible for the heart attack.

It has subsequently emerged that the Butlers’ mortgage, which ordinarily would be paid off in the event of the death of a spouse, was not covered by life insurance.

Blanca and her three children are still living with Daniel’s father but have no way of getting their lives back together.

A group of friends, former work colleagues and others have come together to give a helping hand and help raise emergency funds to get Blanca back into the family home and back on to her feet once again.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Blanca said that she was responding well to the cancer medication but the road ahead remains uncertain.

“I was actually in the Mater hospital when the lightning strike happened and I got a call from my eldest daughter saying we had to come home.”

When she got home she found the house “was very badly damaged on the roof. It was our next-door neighbour who was hit by the lightning and it crawled into our house. The floors are concave and the walls ruined now,” she said.

She said the loss of her husband was by far the worst thing that had happened to her. “It is just terrible but, as me and the kids say, we can’t even cry any more, it is too much,” she said.

She and her family are still living with her father-in-law. “Thank God he took us in as otherwise we would have nowhere to go,” she said.

Daniel’s former employer, Michael Gallagher, is spearheading the GoFundMe campaign – and is committed to carrying out the work necessary to make the family home habitable again.

“There are personal disasters and there is bad luck – but what the Butlers have endured in both personal tragedy and financial misfortune over the past 14 months is beyond imagination,” Mr Gallagher said.

“Daniel worked for me for 20 years and was one in a million. For this family to have lost a loving husband and a father on the back of everything else that went wrong over the past year is truly devastating. We want to press the reset button for this family. They need our help and I know people will want to help, once they hear just what this family have gone through.

“We are determined to set them on a right footing and on the road to recovery,” he added.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor