TWO besties from Strabane have been chosen as the new poster girls for an Action Cancer campaign.
Donna McGavigan and Frances Jack are the charity’s new ‘Breast Friends’, which is ostensibly a fundraising drive and a bid to raise a awareness of the charity’s breast screening options.
The duo, who have been friends since before primary school, are also official ambassadors for the charity, a development which occurred after Donna was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Now, with their images adorning bus shelters and billboards across the North and with TV and radio interviews in the offing, the two friends say they are only too glad to be able to help out in whatever way they can. They also emphasised that they will be eternally grateful for all the help and support from Action Cancer, especially since August of last year.
Frances explained, “They want us to promote the charity for the month of October and do fundraisers. The idea behind the whole campaign is to get groups of best friends together to do fundraisers, sponsored walks, things like that… and for us to raise more awareness of the Action Cancer screening.
“Every time anyone says that they’ve seen our photographs, I go into the whole story about what happened. This is why we’re on the billboard and this is what happened.”
Donna takes up the story…
“We had been going to Action Cancer in Belfast since we were 40, and that’s ten years ago. They are the only organisation in Northern Ireland that will do a mammogram before you get to 50. The problem is, most people don’t know about it.
“We went three times, whether it was the (Action Cancer) Big Bus or going to Belfast and making a day of it. Then last year, I was called back. I didn’t think too much about it, because I had been called back before when I lived in America. It isn’t unusual to get called back. But when I got to Altnagelvin I knew something was wrong.”
Donna, who works as a nurse, had developed two tumours in each breast.
“It was early stages, thank God. We still wouldn’t have had the mammogram if we were waiting to be called by the Trust. Someone was watching out for me.”
She added, “I went from that to having the surgery done in two weeks. It was a double mastectomy. Then it was the reconstruction. Hormone replacement is all I need now and then they keep an eye on me for five years. Hopefully, that’s the end of it.”
Thankfully, following surgery, Donna is hale and healthy – “I’m brilliant now, thank God. I’m a 50-year-old with new boobs!” – but she emphasised the importance of women undergoing breast screening. She was especially praiseful of the Action Cancer team.
“Even after I went to Altnagelvin for the treatment, Action Cancer kept ringing me to see how I got on,” she relayed. “They have a great follow-up service. Then they sent me a wee letter asking if I’d be an ambassador this year. I thought it was just going to be a newsletter thing, put your story out there and highlight what Action Cancer does.
“It has snow-balled, big time. But it’s all for a good cause.”
Breast Friends is inspired by the many stories the charity has heard over the years about ladies coming together to support each other and achieve great things. For their part, Donna and Frances attended every medical appointment together.
There are many ways you can get involved and Action Cancer will provide you with lots of materials to make your fundraising enjoyable and easy. You can gather the girls at home, work, the gym, the beauty salon, wherever you normally get together with your friends.
Donna continued, “Both my parents died of cancer, my father when I was 10 and my mum from breast cancer when I was 14.
“So the history is there. There are five girls in the family, so the odds are there. I was lucky, you wouldn’t have felt mine. And I’m a nurse, so I do the checks. That’s why breast screening is so important.”
• For ideas on creating a events and raising lots of cash download the Breast Friends Fundraising Pack or get in touch with Leigh Osborne on 028 9080 3344 or email@example.com
For more information on breast screening including how to book an appointment visit www.actioncancer.org