Heather calls for support for Cancer Focus NI

12 July 2019

Heather calls for support for Cancer Focus NI

Heather Irwin helped make a quilt to mark Cancer Focus NI’s 50th anniversary

Breast cancer patient Heather Irwin was diagnosed three years ago. Since then she has used some of Cancer Focus NI’s services and says they were a real lifeline for her during her cancer journey.

Heather, from Belfast, is encouraging everyone to sign up for the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Half Marathon to raise funds to help Cancer Focus NI continue to carry out its vital work supporting local cancer patients and their families at a very tough time in their lives.

After she was diagnosed, Heather had a lumpectomy and lymph nodes removed. She didn’t need chemo but had 18 sessions of two different types of radiotherapy. 

“From the tenth session my skin started to burn and I needed pain relief and had dressings to change three times a day,” she recalled. “It took six months for the skin to heal and it was during this time that a friend told me about the bra fitting and swimwear service offered by Cancer Focus NI.

“They told me about bras made from bamboo fabric, which is anti-bacterial and reduces the risk of infection. The fabric is really soft and seam free and, looking back, I don’t know how I would have coped without them.”

Heather had other health problems associated with her cancer. “I have always suffered from asthma but I developed breathing problems shortly after starting hormone therapy which is used to control cancer. Following a period in hospital, I was diagnosed with eosinophilia of the lung as the result of a reaction to the particular hormone suppressant drug that I’d been taking. I left hospital unable to walk the length of myself and needed to use a wheelchair for many months,” she said.

“In June 2017, I went along to a well-being weekend organised by Cancer Focus NI at Corrymeela near Ballycastle, where I met lots of lovely people and had the chance to take part in yoga, get advice on food and nutrition, take part in group discussions, drumming sessions and even had a hand massage. It was a very chilled weekend getting away from it all for a short time. Meeting other people who were in a similar situation made me feel I wasn’t going through it all alone.

“I was also one of three women who made a patchwork quilt commemorating Cancer Focus NI’s 50th anniversary. Quilting helps me relax and became a welcome distraction during my illness.”

Heather added: “I like that Cancer Focus NI does such good work for cancer patients and their families in our community.

“Not only do they support cancer patients and their families, but they work hard in workplaces, schools and community venues to help people lower their risk of cancer in the future. They also fund valuable research and advocate for better health policies. This is a very worthwhile cause, so I hope runners will think of signing up to raise funds for the important work they do.”