A local breast cancer survivor has issued an open invite to a 1980s night tomorrow in aid of local charity, The Pink Ladies.
Annette Deehan, who lives in the Skeoge area of Derry, said she wanted to organise the event to help the charity after it provided her with support and assistance during her personal cancer journey.
Annette, who was first diagnosed in 2009 and then again in 2016, will host the charity night in Pitchers’ Restaurant tomorrow (Saturday), from 9.00 pm.
Reflecting back on her own experience, Annette said: “I had radiotherapy and surgery the first time and then the second time a double mastectomy in 2016. Then I had a recurrence in October last year but it’s just injections and medication now.
“It was a shock as there was no family history of it. I always thought there was a huge emphasis on the genetic factor and I would urge people to be aware, to check for changes and if something doesn’t feel right to go and get it checked.”
Annette said she was delighted to see the North West Cancer Centre open at Altnagelvin Hospital as she knew first hand what it would mean for people getting radiotherapy treatment closer to home.
“The radiotherapy was in Belfast and my mum [Mary Deehan] travelled up and down with me every day for the four weeks on the train. It added so much on to the treatment times for me and gave me less time with my family as well when you took into account the travelling times. And there was the tiredness as well. It was exhausting.”
Annette was left with chronic nerve damage in her arm after her initial treatment and was put on painkillers. “There were days I couldn’t lift my hand to brush my hair. It has settled down. I still have the pain but I’ve learned to live with it.”
And she didn’t let this hold her back,,going on to study for a Degree in Psychology. Despite receiving the second cancer diagnosis, the day before her final exam , she was determined to see it through and remarkably ended up with a First Class Hons. Degree.
She said the staff she encountered during her treatments had been amazing, as has been the support of family and friends.
Annette came into contact with the Pink Ladies after finishing her treatment and sent a message about trying to find specialist undergarments for breast cancer survivors. The Pink Ladies put Annette in touch with Cancer Focus, who run a specialist service, including fittings. Annette also contacted the Pink Ladies in relation to her dissertation, and said she was amazed at the sheer volume of good work and support that the Pink Ladies and the Pink Panthers undertake and provide locally.
It was for this reason that Annette came up with the idea of supporting the Pink Ladies and made contact with Michelle McLaren from the charity, while also enlisting the help of husband Derek Doherty, children and stepchildren to organise the 80s Night.
“I’d like to thank local businesses and those who have donated and who can’t make it on the night,” Annette said.
Michelle McLaren, meanwhile, said she jumped at the chance to get involved with the 80s Night.
Michelle, who is assisting Annette with the organising, said: “It’s a brilliant way to get together and for Annette it’s a great way to say thanks and to celebrate happier times.
“It’s all about life after cancer and going and enjoying yourself and also, in the background, raising that awareness of breast cancer. As Annette says, it’s about knowing your own body. Any changes go and see your GP and don’t be afraid, don’t be dying of embarrassment. There is always help and support there, and for us as an organisation we are always contactable for anybody that wants any type of advice or information, or we can sign post you on.”
The Pink Ladies/ Pink Panthers run female and male groups, as well as a carers’ support group for anyone with a life-limiting illness. They can be contacted on 028 71414004.
Michelle added: “I’m really honoured to be working alongside Annette and to support her on her night. We’re all looking forward to it and would urge everybody to come along and support Annette’s event and cancer services here locally!”
Tickets for the 80s Night can be purchased on the door at Pitchers’ on Saturday night, with fancy dress (optional) and raffles and prizes for best/ worst dressed, and DJ Chris Montgomery, who has volunteered his services.