Derry woman diagnosed with cancer three months after wedding highlights importance of Cancer Research UK
When Claire Quinn heard the words ‘you have cancer’, her life changed in ways that she could never have imagined.
She hopes that sharing her story will inspire others to mark the awareness day by joining the fight against the disease.
Claire Quinn’s wedding to David Quinn was a real cause for celebration, as Covid had completely spoiled their original plans.
“A wedding for 200 people became a wedding for 12 people in my parents garden, said Claire, “ but it turned out to be really special.
“We had a marquee, the champagne was flowing and my uncle, who is a chef, provided a sumptuous three course meal.”
There was added joy when her Grandad, who had been critically ill, was able to walk her halfway down the aisle before her Dad took over.
But their joy was to be short-lived when, just three months later, Claire who was 31 at the time was diagnosed with stage four cancer. She began having night sweats and feeling extremely tired, but thought it was all down to the stress of trying to organise a wedding during Covid. A facilitator at the largest disabilities youth club in the North, named the Bud Club, she had been working 12 hour days building the club up over a period of eight years with her colleagues to where there is now a waiting list to join.
“I attended my GP surgery for blood tests,” said Claire, “ but when I mentioned to the nurse that I had a lump under my arm she referred me to the doctor. I also had itching in my legs which the doctor thought might be an allergy, so I checked the usual things – washing powder, soap etc. but I had not changed any of these. It was also during the very hot summer so I thought perhaps that could be a factor.”
Having referred Claire to the breast clinic her GP explained that it could be a few weeks before she would be seen, but he was not unduly worried as it was not urgent. He prescribed antibiotics and Claire continued to work.
“I was surprised to be given an appointment within a week” said Claire “but there had been a cancellation. I feel very lucky that this appointment happened to be on a Wednesday, the day when all tests were done – someone was looking after me as this led to an earlier diagnosis!”
A mammogram was clear, but an ultra sound confirmed Claire had cancer.
“I left work that morning thinking I was just getting my biopsy results and had intended to go straight back as I had arranged to take some young people bowling,” explained Claire. “I was totally devastated as due to Covid my husband could not accompany me, so I was on my own when I received the diagnosis. Somehow I managed to drive home and call David with the news.
Surgery confirmed the diagnosis of stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma and a PET scan identified where the cancer was.
“It was at this point that we were given the option of fertility treatment as we were young and only married a few months”, Claire continued. “ but when we heard the cancer was in my neck, underarm, chest, pelvis and bone marrow we decided not to delay my treatment.”
Claire began chemotherapy on 9 August 2021 and after 12 rounds she was given the good news that she was in remission.
“That was on 28 February 2022 so this February I will be a year in remission, thanks to the excellent team at North West Cancer Centre.” she said.
Obviously this was great news but having had weekly appointments Claire struggled slightly when told she would now only require check-up appointments every three months. “My picc line was removed and I suddenly felt anxious and a little scared, realising how much I had depended on my contact with the medical team” she added.
“However I have remained positive and talking to friends, family and especially my husband does help allay my fears.”
With around 9,000 people diagnosed with cancer in Northern Ireland every year Claire’s message is clear – to save lives tomorrow, Cancer Research UK needs the public’s support today.
That’s why she’s calling on people across Northern Ireland to give regularly to the charity to help fund long term research projects that could drive new breakthroughs for people like her.
Life-saving cancer treatments are made possible by months and months of trialling, testing and learning. But monthly progress in research needs monthly donations.
Claire’s experience has made her more aware of the value of research.
She said: “I received my treatment for Lymphoma in 2021/2022 and during that period Cancer Research UK spent over £5m on research into that particular cancer.
“Research into better treatments has given me the greatest gift - more precious time with my loved ones. But, special moments like these would not be possible without the dedication of scientists who are relentlessly striving towards new milestones month after month.
“By donating monthly to the charity, people could help give hope to many more families like mine and save lives for generations to come.”
Claire is leading by example and is determined to give something back, having taken part and completed the Relay for life Legenderry 2022, she is attending a Ladies’ Luncheon on Sunday, February 5 at The City Hotel, raising funds for this year’s event which will take place on 17 June 2023.
Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
Its research has led to more than 50 cancer drugs used across the UK - and around the world - from widely used chemotherapies to new-generation precision treatments.
People can also help support vital work such as this by getting a World Cancer Day Unity Band from one of the charity’s shops while stocks last. Available in pink, navy or blue, wearing one is a way of showing solidarity with people affected by the disease.
Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Northern Ireland, Jean Walsh said:
“This World Cancer Day, we want to say a heartfelt thank you to our customers, donors and supporters like Claire. Thanks to their generosity and commitment to the cause, we’ve been at the forefront of cancer research for over 120 years and we’re not stopping now.