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Kircubbin Woman Encourages Women To Be Breast Aware
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NORTHERN Ireland’s leading local cancer charity Action Cancer is marking its annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) campaign this October.

Celebrating its fifth year in partnership with Northern Ireland’s largest independent pharmacy chain, Gordons Chemists, the key message is to encourage women to come forward for breast screening. Down News below has covered the touching story of Kircubbin woman Inez Fowler who has battled with breast cancer.

Action Cancer is the only charity in the UK and Ireland that offers women aged 40 – 49 and 70+ the opportunity to have a free mammogram, complementing the NHS screening programme which calls women aged 50 – 70.

Pictured at the launch are breast cancer survivor Inez Fowler, Action Cancer’€™s Consultant Radiographer Joanna Currie and Gordons Chemist’s€™ Pharmacist, Fiona McQuillan

The dramatic statistics reveal that approximately 1,150 women are diagnosed with and 300 die from breast cancer in Northern Ireland every year.

Gordon’s Chemists in Ballynahinch, Downpatrick and Saintfield  would appeal to all women aged 40-49 and 70+ to call into their local store on Friday 19 October 2012 during ‘Breast Action Day’ to sign up for a free breast screening or simply sign the ‘Ribbon of Hope’.

John Clark, General Manager, Gordons Chemists, said:  “This is our fifth year supporting Action Cancer’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Our staff are committed to the campaign and building on the vital funds we have raised over the last four years so on 19 October our stores will be decorated with splashes of pink as we celebrate the day in a fun and focused way to help save lives.

“We decided to introduce the ‘Ribbon of Hope’ this year to give customers an opportunity to add their signature to a ribbon to encourage other women affected by breast cancer, to remember friends or loved ones they may have lost to this disease or maybe even to give themselves hope as they undergo treatment.  We are really looking forward to assisting the campaign with new requests for free breast screenings from the self-referral forms completed in-store and to raising funds to save, support and reassure.”

Inez Shares Her Story To Encourage Women to Be Breast Aware

Inez Fowler from Kircubbin has shared her journey with breast cancer so that women are encouraged to be more proactive in checking for the early signs of this serious illness.

She is married to her husband Davy and has a daughter Jennie (20). Inez had her breast cancer detected by Action Cancer’s screening service.

She said: “In 2008 a good friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer and advised me to get a mammogram as soon as possible. As I was 43 at the time I headed straight to Action Cancer who screen women in their forties and over 70. Thankfully the results from this screening came back clear. Two years later in May 2010 I received a letter from Action Cancer recalling me for a screening. I’m not sure why, but I got cold feet and didn’t go.

“In Early 2011 two people I knew were diagnosed with breast cancer in quick succession and finally this spurred me on to get myself checked out.  I picked up the phone to Action Cancer in May 2011 and booked for myself and a friend to have a mammogram.  And of course, the day trip to Belfast entailed a light lunch and a little shopping – we made a day of it!

“The mammogram itself was fine and the atmosphere welcoming, but as I was leaving, I just felt in my gut that something was wrong. When I got home I checked my breasts thoroughly. I did notice something on my right breast – not a lump but a certain hardness, like a thickness developing.

“Two weeks after the appointment I received a letter referring me to the hospital for further tests. At that stage I just knew. My appointment was scheduled for two weeks later.

“My husband, daughter and I travelled up to the Ulster Hospital in silence. We arrived early in the morning and the waiting room was full to capacity. Over the course of the day I had a series of needle biopsies and a core biopsy.  I noticed the waiting room gradually emptying throughout the day, but four hours later we were still there.

“Finally my husband and I were brought into a private room. The consultant said, ‘We have all the results back now. You have stage three breast cancer and will need surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.’

“I felt like my world was tumbling down around me but it was either sink or swim. I decided to go ahead with this treatment. I’m still a young woman and I’ve too many tables to dance on yet!. That was when I decided that this thing was not going to beat me.

“Three days later I received news that the cancer was also in my lymph nodes. On 29 June I had surgery to remove the mass and the nodes and four days later I was at a party celebrating my niece’s return from New York. I wasn’t going to stop living.

“I started the first of six chemotherapy sessions on 9 August. I found the first session, the unknown, the most difficult but then I just had to get on with it. Two weeks after I’d finished my first chemotherapy I started to lose my hair.  I went to a colleague and friend and asked her to take it all off. The hair wasn’t an issue for me as I accessorised with funky scarves and colourful glasses so I still felt like myself. I also tried to wear lippy and blusher most days – I still wanted to look well.

“I started radiotherapy on 19 December with my father-in-law who was receiving treatment for prostate cancer. I found this much easier than chemotherapy as it wasn’t as hard on my body.

“When hit with this kind of news you have to look at it as a hurdle in life, a mountain to climb but something that you CAN get over. For me, keeping positive helped enormously. You can’t bury your head in the sand – you ought to be proactive about your health. I was, and Action Cancer helped to save my life.”

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Anyone interested in obtaining a breast screening appointment should contact Action Cancer on 028 9080 3344, visit www.actioncancer.org, download Action Cancer’s BreastAware app or call in to your local Gordons Chemist and fill out a breast screening request form.