A local cancer charity group, which has raised more than £250,000 since it was formed 22 years years ago, has been hailed as “inspirational”.
Fundraising manager with Cancer Research UK, Sharon Arbuckle praised Dungiven and Feeny Local Committee of Cancer Research UK group after its members delivered a £6,000 cheque to the organisation.
“They’re an incredible group, which is very highly motivated, diligent and highly thought of in their own community and that’s one of the things that makes them so successful,” said Mrs Arbuckle.
“The cancer survivors who are members of the group are inspirational to the local people. They do an amazing job, they’re switched on and having raised a quarter of a million is brilliant.”
Chairperson of the Dungiven and Feeny Local Committee of Cancer Research UK, Anne Marie O’Hagan said the staggering amount raised is down to the generosity of the community, local businesses and the hard work of committee members.
“It used to be hard raising money but, as the years went on, we’ve built up solid support,” said Mrs O’Hagan. “We have raised over a quarter of a million pounds and, when you think of it, it is amazing. We can ask for our money to stay locally and to be sent to Belfast and Altnagelvin, so it’s nice you have the local link. That money goes towards research and it is saving lives. The support from the public has been brilliant, and the committee wants to thank them very much for all they’ve done, and we urge them to keep giving because there isn’t a family that hasn’t been touched by cancer. It used to be one in three people get cancer in their lives. Now it’s one in two, but the difference is the survival rate is much higher than it was 20 or 30 years ago.”
Gerry Murphy from Dungiven joined the group as treasurer when it first started.
“I thoroughly enjoy the work I do,” said the former bank official.
“The main feature of it all is the generosity of local businesses and people. We went for a few ambitious projects, like the lorry pulls in 2003 and 2009, and each raised over £30,000. Practically every family has a relative or family member diagnosed with cancer.”
Gerry knows only too well the importance of the money raised by the group for research. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2001, aged 49.
“Luckily, early diagnosis meant I didn’t require chemotherapy,” he said. “I had to almost force my doctor to refer me to a specialist as I knew there was something wrong. He wanted to put me on a stronger antibiotic but I pressed on, and the diagnosis proved I was right. I had surgery, and it was successful and I’ve had no problems since. The work the committee does is outstanding and I get tremendous support from all the members. We work really well as a team.”
Committee member, Ann Canning was diagnosed with bowel cancer when she was 36 during a routine procedure when she was being treated for appendicitis, and again, a year and a half ago with rectal cancer.
“When they took me into theatre they noticed the tumour rubbing up against my appendix,” she recalled.
“Before that I never had any bowel problems, or any symptons.”
With three children aged between 11 and 16, Ann said she had no option but to get on with things.
“What do you do? You just have to get up and get on with it, because at that time I had three children and I just hoped and prayed I would get long enough to see them growing up. I remember asking God at that time to give me five more years to see them grow up, and look after themselves a wee bit more. So, God has given me a lot more and every day I get up it’s a blessing and I thank God for every minute. Even the last time I never let it get me down because if I get down everyone else gets down.”
Ann added: “The group has been brilliant and it’s great to be able to do something because the group does so much for research, and there are so many people alive today because of the research. Cancer Research UK does so much good work and being in the group is great support. There are nine of us on the committee and four of us are cancer survivors.”
Mrs Arbuckle explained how donations made to Cancer Research UK are used.
“Most of our donations are for less than £10 so, although we raise millions of pounds every year for cancer research, every penny we get really helps and where the money goes is very important. We are proud to say that, as a charity, every pound we raise 80 pence goes to research, and not many charities can say that. In Altnagelvin, Cancer Research UK have clinical trials operating today. That has been the case for some time, but what’s going to happen with the new radiotherapy centre in 2016 in Altnagelvin means there will be trials for radiotherapy as well, and currently we can’t offer that in Altnagelvin. We can only offer that in Belfast, so there will be even more Cancer Research UK activity in Derry and the surrounding area,” said Mrs Arbuckle.
Paula McCloskey, originally from Dungiven and lives in Limavady, was inspired to have her head shaved in September for charity after the loss of her best friend and her brother-in-law. Her best friend of more than a decade, 41-year-old Leona Woods, died in March after battling Leukaemia. Two months earlier, Paula’s brother-in-law Liam ‘Tilly’ McElhinney passed away, aged 48 on January 23 after a 16-month long battle with esophageal cancer.This week, Paula presented Cancer Research UK with the money she had raised.
“I’m really glad I did it,” said Paula. “It must be very hard for women who lose their hair. This is a small price to pay.”