A Downpatrick woman is on a 100-mile hike in Scotland following her recovery from breast cancer.
Downpatrick breast cancer survivor Susan Morgan, who is mid-way through a solo 100 mile walk in Scotland, has already raised almost £3k for Cancer Focus Northern Ireland.
Susan is backing the charity’s Support Your Girls campaign to highlight the signs and symptoms of the disease and how to check yourself.
She is encouraging everyone to hold a Girls’ Night In to raise money for a new support service for younger women with breast cancer.
A lecturer at the University of Ulster, Susan is married to Seamus Fitzsimons and is mum to Aine (18) and Rory (15). She was diagnosed a year ago with two tumours in her left breast, one 4cm and the other 1.4cm.
Telling her story, Susan said: “I had a mastectomy and lymph nodes removed. That was followed by six rounds of chemo in December and 15 rounds of radiotherapy, and I’m now on hormone therapy.
“I had noticed a change in the shape of my breast. It slightly dented in and was noticeable when I sat in a particular way.
“I thought it was probably one of the changes that happens during menopause.
“There had been no signs in terms of feeling unwell or anything else to indicate that there was something wrong.
“It is very easy to dismiss the signs and not take immediate action – and it did take me a few months to go to the doctor.
“I don’t know if it would have made a difference if I’d gone earlier, but the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes.
“When I did go to my GP he sent me very promptly to the breast clinic and they were able to tell me within two hours that I had cancer.”
Susan said: “It was a massive shock, as it is for every woman. I’d had a heart attack in January 2017, a bleed in the heart which clotted, and thought, no, this can’t be happening too. I considered myself a healthy person and this was just awful.
“I had been going to Cancer Focus NI’s art therapy group and had just started an art journal when Covid happened.
“Obviously everything stopped at that point, but I had picked up enough of the skills and continued on myself during lockdown. I have a lovely journal as a result.
“I used art throughout the rest of my chemo and radiotherapy. It was really good for me. I had never done anything like that immersive type of activity before.
“It was a brilliant way of zoning out, escaping for a while, and it was a way of relaxing from all the tension. I’ve also used the Cancer Focus NI bra-fitting service in Downpatrick which is brilliant.
“One in two people in Northern Ireland get cancer. It’s still a subject that people are uncomfortable talking about but we need to get the message out that we must all be vigilant.
“I’ve recently celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary and I realise how lucky I am to have reached that landmark.
“I was originally planning to go to New Orleans for my 50th birthday but Covid-19 put an end to that. Walking has always been my favourite form of exercise and I wanted to do something to prove to myself that I’m fit and healthy again.
“So I decided to walk 100 miles, starting September 4, along the West Highland Way to raise money for Cancer Focus NI to support all their wonderful work.
“I’d encourage women and girls everywhere to hold a Girls’ Night In to raise funds for the new service for younger women with breast cancer.”
If you are not sure how to check your breasts or what to look out for, Cancer Focus NI has a short video to explain on its website and social media channels.
You can find out more about the Support Your Girls campaign and the signs and symptoms on the charity’s website: www.cancerfocusni.org/girls.
Check out: video content presented by radio presenter Rebecca McKinney and a fact file on signs and symptoms:
YouTube link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFkBJt8MzJk
How to check your breasts
YouTube link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GM7vMKxDVE
Signs & Smptoms of breast cancer
YouTube link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoLr08UOWqM
Check for anything that is not normal for you:
- A lump
- Thickening of the skin
- A dimple or puckering of the skin
- Change in size or shape of one breast
- Any unusual sensation / pain / discomfort in one breast
- Veins becoming more visible
- Discharge from the nipple (especially blood-stained)
- Change in nipple shape / inverted nipple
- Persistent rash on a breast.
Reduce your risk of cancer
· Healthy weight
· Not drinking alcohol
· Physical activity
· Reducing fat in your diet
· Eat more fruit and veg
· Breast feed
· Don’t start smoking or stop if you do