Its4women.co.uk and Action Cancer Saving Mum
Three years ago bar manager Paula Simms (48) went through the pain and suffering of breast cancer but her inspiring story of how she defeated the condition has taught her to treasure life.
In the run up to Mother’s Day/This Mother’s Day, Paula shares her story of how a routine visit to Action Cancer’s Big Bus with her mother Martha, turned out to be life saving for Paula and how grateful she is to Action Cancer to be alive and here to be a mum to her two grown up twins Christopher and Rebecca (24).
Paula, is in no doubt that early detection via a breast screening onboard Action Cancer’s Big Bus saved her life. She went with her mother Martha, a woman in her 70’s, back in September 2017 to Action Cancer’s Big Bus when it visited Carrickfergus.
“I have been going every couple of years since my 40th birthday for breast screening with my mum,” said Paula.
Due to Martha being in her 70s, she too was eligible for a screening with Action Cancer, so they booked their appointment together. Paula expected the scan would again come back normal.
“I went as normal and had no lumps or bumps so I was expecting everything to be normal,” said Paula.
“However I got a letter to say I was being referred to Antrim Area Hospital as something had been detected on my screening.”
Tests and biopsies were carried out at the breast clinic at Antrim Area Hospital and Paula got the devastating news that would rip her world apart, she had breast cancer. For Paula, a fit and healthy then 45 year old it came as a massive shock. A three and a half centimetre lump on her breast was detected and it was an aggressive tumour.
The lump was about a third of the breast, including lymph nodes which needed to be removed.
“I was devastated as I was healthy and active and this came as a real bolt out of the blue,” said Paula.
“The only blessing was that thanks to Action Cancer it had been detected early. If I had waited until I was in the NHS system, I could have been about 50/51 and my story could have been very different. So I was very thankful.”
Paula spent two nights at Antrim Area Hospital because she developed a clot. As the treatment kicked in Paula lost her hair which again was devastating.
“It was recommended by my consultant that I had to undergo chemotherapy sessions,” said Paula.
“This was difficult as I lost my hair. It started coming out in lumps and I was very upset. I had a wee cry to myself and in the end I got a friend to shave it off.”
As it was winter Paula, who hated the feel of a wig on her scalp began to wear a woolly hat. After the chemotherapy was over, Paula then had up to 20 sessions of radiotherapy which ended in June followed by 18 herceptin injections. The treatment was challenging to deal with but it was telling her children at the time proved to be the most difficult thing.
“In the end I had a lot of treatment and I was scared – not for me but for the children,” said Paula.
“I wanted to get my affairs in order for them. I sorted out my will, dusted off some policies I had and sorted out the mortgage on the house.
“I wanted to know if anything happened to me they would be looked after. Telling them was hard. My daughter fell apart and my son was quiet but he talked to friends and family.”
Paula said that she also has a lot to be thankful for and would encourage any woman to avail of Action Cancer services.
“Everyone was very supportive and was there for me,” said Paula. “We have raised nearly £10,000 as a thank you to Action Cancer through various fundraising activities at the bar,
“Now I tell everyone who will listen about the importance of going for a mammogram. It is quick and easy to get done. Yes, it is slightly uncomfortable but that is a small price to pay.
“We are all responsible for looking after our own health and checks like the mammogram and smears are vital.
“I have a different outlook on life now. Your health is the most important thing not flash cars and big holidays.
“I’ll never be the same again. The top of my arm is numb and at times due to my work it swells up.
“I’ve learnt the importance of resting when needed.
“Mum was a great support and her and I will continue to support each other at every stage.
“I am so thankful to Action Cancer- their early detection saved my life.”
Women aged 40-49 and 70 plus can avail of a breast screening at Action Cancer in Belfast or on board the charity’s Big Bus, supported by SuperValu and Centra, which travels throughout Northern Ireland visiting 225 locations annually.
All of Action Cancer’s services are free of charge to the user. However, each breast screening appointment costs the charity approximately £80. As the charity receives no government funding, it relies on the generosity of the general public and local business community to maintain and deliver its services. Action Cancer’s fundraising campaign ‘Breast Friends’, encourages friends and family to get together and raise funds for the life saving breast screening service.
The campaign is empowered by Coleraine-based online car insurance company, its4women.co.uk, which has committed to matching every pound raised by the general public up to a total value of £90,000 over the next three years. The total funds of £180,000 will allow Action Cancer to provide 2,250 free breast screening appointments for local women, saving approximately 15 lives and providing peace of mind to over two thousand women.
If you would like to get involved in the ‘Breast Friends’ campaign contact Leigh Osborne on email@example.com or 07928 668543.
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