It has been a tough year for Galliagh Women’s Group co-ordinator Rosie Doherty. Earlier this year, she lost both her beloved sister Ann and her brother Robert to cancer. Then in May she faced the devastating diagnosis that she herself would be facing her own battle with cancer.
“I had no symptoms at all - nothing which would indicate anything was wrong. I was just called for my first routine breast check at the hospital.
“To be honest I had forgotten about it, and I suppose I was a wee bit nervous. I mean you hear you stories about mammograms, so when I remembered I just thought I would skip it but the girls in the office convinced me to go along.”
The mammogram, she said, was nothing at all to be worried about and when she left the hospital Rosie said she didn’t give the test a second thought. It was only a few weeks later when she was preparing for the Women’s Centre’s Health Week and she received a phonecall from the hospital which would pull the rug out from under her.
“We had been shopping for the health event and I was packing the groceries into the car at Sainsbury’s car park when my phone rang. I didn’t even really look at it and just answered it to a woman from the hospital telling me they had been trying to get a hold of me and asking me if I could come over there and then.”
With a friend in tow, Rosie made her way to the hospital that afternoon where she underwent a needle biopsy and an ultrasound scan before being told that she indeed had breast cancer.
“It was just devastating,” Rosie said. “We had already lost our brother and sister to cancer this year and it was a lot to take in.”
The consultant at Altnagelvin told Rosie that there was no way she could have known that she had cancer - and that where her cancer was would not have been detected through a simple self breast examination.
“I had thought because I had no signs or symptoms that everything was fine. It just goes to show how important screening is. Had I left it until I did feel something a year or more could have passed and it could have been too late or much more difficult to treat.
“Because of that, I consider myself very lucky. Who knows what would have happened had I not gone to my appointment.”
As it was Rosie had to undergo a lumpectomy which was followed by a course of radiotherapy in Belfast - an experience she describes as “completely exhausting” - however she is now cancer free and back at work.
“I still have to attend for check ups, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m over the worst. It’s great to be back at work, back with the support of my colleagues. It has been a very tough year but I’m still here.”
Rosie has decided to speak out about her experiences now as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and as a part of this Galliagh Women’s Centre will be having the Action Cancer Big Bus visit Galliagh on October 25 and 27.
The 18 metre-long articulated vehicle with expanding side pods, houses cancer prevention and early detection services and staff on the unit also provide information about support services.
Services provided on the Big Bus, which is fully accessible for people with disabilities by means of a wheelchair lift, include digital breast screening for women aged between 40 and 49 and over 70, health promotion and MOT health checks for men and women.
A full body composition analysis using the latest technology provides clients with information on their height, weight, body mass index and more, and also offers health awareness and weight loss guidance, encouraging people to adapt to a healthier lifestyle.
“People may be nervous about going to the hospital,” Rosie said, “so they may find a service right on their doorstep more accessible and less daunting. The Big Bus is always very popular and we are already receiving phonecalls from people looking to book an appointment.”
Rosie said she also wanted to encourage all women to take up the offer of screening when they receive it. “I’m proof of how important that is. I can’t stress that enough.”
Anyone interested in making an appointment for the Big Bus can telephone Action Cancer in advance on 028 9080 3344. Appointments will be available from 10.00am to 3.00pm each day. Bookings are taken on a first come first served basis as there are a limited number of appointments for all services.
Alternatively you can call the Galliagh Women’s Centre for more information on 71356092.