Geraldine McGurk said that a routine mammogram helped to save her life.
Geraldine, a member of local breast cancer support group, the Pink Ladies, was one of many who helped contribute to the group’s new ‘Breast Self Check’ DVD and urged all women over the age of 50 attend their scheduled appointments.
“I was called for a routine mammogram a few years ago and a while later I was called back. The clinicians at the hospital found something in one of my breasts. I didn’t even know it was there and as a result the early detection helped to save my life,” said Geraldine.
“A lot of women of my generation sometimes feel afraid and think they are better off not finding out if there is anything wrong with them but that’s the wrong thing to do. Early detection can make all of the difference and by attending regular appointments it could make a world of difference.”
Recently, the Pink Ladies have been visiting schools, community groups and work places to give talks on breast cancer awareness. The vast majority of the group’s members are breast cancer survivors and their testimonies are raw, honest and inspirational.
Pink Ladies Co-ordinator, Michelle McLaren, said that during the talks the group would use a DVD made by charity Breast Cancer Aware.
Michelle said that after chatting with the rest of the Pink Ladies, they decided that the could make their information sessions more effective if they were to use a DVD of their own.
“Our DVD really has improved things,” said Michelle.
“We started filming at the beginning of the year and we only put the final DVD together within the last few weeks.
“The main film lasts about 15 minutes and each person who attends any of our information sessions receives a free two minute version.”
Pink Lady, Mary Doherty, is also a breast cancer survivor and stressed the point that many women of an older generation take an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach when it comes to routine mammograms.
“I know we are trying to reach younger women with our message but a lot of women my age are full of fear when it comes to routine mammograms - they convince themselves that if they don’t attend them then nothing bad will happen.
“If you’ve been given an appointment for a routine mammogram then you should attend - it just might save your life.”
Some of the Pink Ladies recollect their own experience of breast cancer in the DVD and two of the members allowed themselves to be filmed checking their breasts for symptoms or signs of breast cancer.
Gemma Caldwell, who allowed her self to be filmed, is a member of the Pink Ladies but she has never had breast cancer. Gemma joined the group after someone close to her was diagnosed with the illness.
“I’ve no problem with people knowing that I allowed myself to be filmed - the more women my age that check themselves, the better.
“I have to admit, before the DVD, I didn’t know how to carry out a self-check but now I have no problem at all.”
Deborah McGlinchey was also filmed for the DVD. Deborah was 36 years-old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and knows all too well about the importance of women of all ages carrying out self-checks.
“There’s absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about,” she said.
“You’d be surprised at the number of young women that do not know how to administer a self-check.
“I let myself be filmed as I wanted to help raise awareness about breast cancer and to help enforce the importance of all women of all ages checking themselves for symptoms - it’s so important.”
Clare Cregan is also a member of the Pink Ladies and is a breast cancer survivor.
Clare is the narrator on the DVD and she said that after the group screened the short film in the Gasyard last month, it encouraged her daughter to attend a breast check appointment at Altnagelvin.
“My daughter had the appointment but she didn’t want to tell me about it. She came to the night at the Gasyard last month, where we put on the DVD for over 100 people and as a result she made sure she went to the hospital - they didn’t find anything,” said Clare smiling.
“If the DVD convinced just one woman to go and have a breast check then it’s been a success but I have no doubt that it will continue to not only educate women about attending medical appointments but it will also educate young women on breast cancer.”
Michelle McLaren said that an observation that has caused concern when visiting various schools and community groups is how little young women know about breast cancer.
“We wanted to try and get the message across to younger women too. I myself was only 25 years-old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and you would be shocked at how little young girls know about it.
“We involved some young girls in the making of the DVD and hopefully by the time we have visited a few more schools and community organisations we will have made even more progress.”
The Pink Ladies can deliver breast cancer awareness sessions to schools, community groups and work places. For further information contact Michelle McLaren at the Gasyard Centre on 028 7126 2812.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Elsewhere, the Pink Ladies’ Caw/Nelson Drive coffee mornings will resume from Monday September 10 11am-12.30pm and will continue on every second Monday of the month in Crescent Community and Culture Centre, 205-211 Sperrin Park, Nelson Drive.
Furthermore, the Pink Ladies will be launching their new coffee morning in partnership with Galliagh Women’s Group on Friday October 12 at 11am and they will continue to take place on the second Friday of every month in 20 Knockalla Park.
To mark Breast Cancer Awareness month, next month, The Pink Ladies are also hosting the Pink Ladies Walking for Breast Cancer Awareness in memory of Tracey Coyle. The walk is due to take place on October 7.
Registration for the October walk are as follows: (cost of registration is £5 per person)
Quayside shopping centre September 14-16 10am-6pm; Rathmore Centre September 17-18 10am-6pm; Richmond Centre September 21-22 10-6pm.
The Pink Ladies will be rounding off Breast Cancer Awareness month with a night of entertainment in the City Hotel; ‘An Evening With Ben Kelly’. Tickets are priced at £10 and will be on sale from October 1.