When Mary McKnight was diagnosed with breast cancer in May last year, it was a shock, but not a complete surprise.
The 49-year-old Dungiven woman had a gut instinct something was wrong.
“Of course it was a shock, but I knew something wasn’t quite right for about a month,” says Mary.
Surgery followed in June and July at Altnagelvin, with subsequent cycles of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Mary, who’d undergone a single mastectomy, said she refused to let cancer get the better of her.
“It’s like the book I read - I’ve got cancer but cancer hasn’t got me’,” says Mary, who explains it’s about being able to feel good again about herself, physically and mentally.
Helping to bring back that self confidence was the positive experience she had when she used the Cancer Focus NI bra-fitting service at Altnagelvin Hospital.
“I eventually plan to have reconstructive surgery, but I knew that a good-fitting, comfortable and stylish bra would go a long way to boosting my confidence in my appearance. I was very keen to feel as normal as possible as soon as possible,” says Mary.
“The lady who helped me was so warm and friendly and made me feel completely at ease, which is so important. At the same time she was very professional and efficient.
“There’s a good range of styles to choose from too. It makes you feel more confident, more like a woman, more feminine.”
Mary hopes by sharing her experience she will raise awareness about the service offered by Cancer Focus NI at Altnagelvin, and about the charity’s new service in Ballymoney.
“I travelled 18 miles to Altnagelvin for this service, which is so much easier than having to go to Belfast,” said Mary.
“The new fitting centre in Ballymoney is a tremendous boost for breast cancer patients in the area and other nearby towns.”
Mary also hopes that by sharing her story, she can inspire other woman who have survived breast cancer to contact local charities, such as Cancer Focus NI to see what help they offer.
“You come through cancer and the treatment and you think to yourself, ‘what do I do with my life?’” says Mary.
“Cancer puts everything into perspective, and my husband Tom and I have decided to travel as much as possible. I’ve started a six-week Zest for Life programme run by Cancer Focus because, for me it’s about getting fit physically and mentally.Cancer Focus has been fantastic and I can’t recommend them enough.”
Mary added: “I want to urge ladies of all ages to check their breasts once a month as breast cancer is on the increase.”
The new service is based in Ballymoney at the Robinson Hub, Robinson Hospital, beside Ballymoney Health Centre, is open on Mondays from 1pm to 4pm and on Tuesdays from 9.30am to 1pm.
Cancer Focus NI Care Services Manager Deirdre Conlon says the specialist bra and swimwear fitting service “offers personal, one to one support, helping each breast cancer patient choose the right garment, in the right size, to suit them”.
Deirdre added: “Feeling good in your clothes can make a real difference and following breast surgery there is no reason why women shouldn’t continue to wear the clothes they love.”.
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