Derry aunt and niece in race to beat bowel cancer

Bowel cancer survivor Bernadette Healy pictured with her niece, Sheila O'Connor DER2815MC010 (Photo: Jim McCafferty)
Bowel cancer survivor Bernadette Healy pictured with her niece, Sheila O'Connor DER2815MC010 (Photo: Jim McCafferty)

This is the Derry aunt and niece who have teamed up in a bid to raise awareness of bowel cancer.

On Sunday Sheila O’Connor ran the Titanic half marathon to support her Aunt Bernadette who is spending this year helping to publicise the charity ‘Beating Bowel Cancer.’

Survivor Bernadette was in her 40s when she was first diagnosed with bowel cancer, the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, and she’s now on a mission to educate people about the signs and symptoms of the disease.

“Nine out of ten people who have bowel cancer can be cured if it is caught in time,” said Bernadette.

“I don’t want people to be embarrassed about it. Go and talk to your doctor.”

Sheila said she really wanted to raise money for Beating Bowel Cancer because three members of her family who have been diagnosed with the disease have fully recovered.

“It’s all about beating this cancer,” she said.

On Sunday Sheila and her husband Tony O’Connor who run the Cosh, the Bentley, the Magnet, Bistro 9 and Slim Jyms took to the streets of Belfast.

“I started running about two years ago when I stopped smoking,” said Sheila.

“I was smoking about 20 a day and I wanted to get healthy. But I didn’t want to put on weight. It all went from there and this is my ninth half marathon.

Sheila’s husband’s child has cystic fibrosis and the couple often run to raise money for CF charities.”

However Sheila decided that for this race she’d raise money for Bernadette’s charity.

“I’ll have raised £1,200 when it’s all in,” said Sheila. “I always think it’s amazing when I see the people of Derry giving. Some of them don’t have a lot but they are still so generous.”

As well as Sheila’s fundraising Bernadette’s also been collecting.

Recently she collected £300 outside Pennyburn Credit Union and her monthly scone mornings at her local Weight watcher’s group where she sells healthy snacks are very popular.

Bernadette plans to keep going this year to get the message out.

“I am really proud of Aunt Bernadette for talking about it,” said Sheila.

Next up for Sheila is the Great North Run when she will continue on with her fundraising with her husband Tony.