Local women support appeal to raise funds for Cancer Focus

Local women support appeal to raise funds for Cancer Focus

20 May 2020

A LEADING cancer charity has enlisted the help of three local women to launch an emergency appeal for funds to help it remain in business.

The Cancer Focus NI appeal — launched on Monday — is aimed at saving vital services for cancer patients now and in the future as it struggles for funds in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic.

The charity is desperately worried that it will not survive the coronavirus crisis and is appealing to people to make a donation to help the organisation keep its doors open.

Downpatrick’s Emma Telford, former South Down MP Baroness Margaret Ritchie and Newcastle mum-of-three Kathy Farrell, who have been affected by cancer, are stepping forward to help.

Each year, Cancer Focus NI supports 6,000 cancer patients, their families and carers across Northern Ireland, with the charity 90% dependent on fundraising.

However, it has had to cancel all its fundraising events and close its charity shops and is facing an 80% loss of income over the next six months.

Cancer Focus NI chief executive Roisin Foster said the hearts of everyone associated with the charity go out to people who are trying to cope with the anxiety of coronavirus on top of dealing with a cancer diagnosis and the impact of treatment.

“Covid-19 is making life so much more difficult for them,” she explained. “Treatments have been delayed and clinics cancelled. Not to mention the anxiety, stress and loneliness that patients and their families might feel right now.

“With cancer screening suspended and GP referrals for suspected cancer down 76%, we know there will be a wave of patients facing late diagnosis and more complex treatment.

“We desperately want to be able to support people facing cancer both now and in the future but, unfortunately, we are facing a crisis unlike any other we have ever known in our 50 year history.”

Roisin said that Cancer Focus NI’s income has “plummeted to a critically low level” and the charity is worried that it will not be able to keep afloat. 

The chief executive continued: “We fear we might not be here to continue to support thousands of people at one of the toughest times of their lives. For each day of lockdown, another 36 local people get cancer and cancer figures are rising year on year.

“We are still providing greatly reduced counselling and family support services to as many vulnerable people as possible. But we urgently need people’s help and are appealing to everyone to make a donation, big or small, to save our services.”

Roisin added: “Your donations are vital to us and every penny raised stays in Northern Ireland. Your support at this incredibly difficult time is extremely valuable and greatly appreciated. We can’t do it without you.”

Emma Telford was just 14 and her sister, Evie, only eight when their beloved mum, Lorna, was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, she later passed away. The sisters are both using the Cancer Focus NI family support service.

“Sometimes, when you’re in that situation where a loved one has cancer, you feel isolated because everyone around you is going through normal life while your whole life is falling apart,” said Emma.

“We needed help to understand what was going on and to get support at what is a really difficult time. The family support service helps you understand that you are not on your own and you meet other people who are in exactly the same position as you, which was really important for me.”

Emma added: “My mum really valued the support, it is incredible and it is a service that every child in that situation should have access to. It made a massive difference to my life and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without them. 

“It’s invaluable and I will be forever grateful for the support I received. Cancer Focus NI really do need your help so that this amazing service can continue.”

Baroness Ritchie — who uses the Cancer Focus NI bra-fitting service in Downpatrick — explained that when she received her breast cancer diagnosis, she knew she had to have a mastectomy, with news of her illness and treatment a major shock to her.

“I find the charity’s service invaluable,” she continued.

“The staff are very friendly and supportive and the service is very private and confidential. When you have breast surgery you want to be able to wear the clothes you used to wear but, most importantly, you want your body shape to return and to look good in your clothes.”

Baroness Ritchie added: “The bra-fitting staff have training and have expertise. Above all, they can provide comfort and solace. This is a fantastic service to have on your doorstep.”

Kathy used two of the charity’s many services after she discovered she had breast cancer. She underwent eight operations including a double mastectomy, breast reconstruction and a hysterectomy. 

Her long-term health has been affected in other ways too. She suffers from depression and anxiety along with fibromyalgia, nerve damage in her hands and feet and chronic fatigue.

“Counselling and writing about my cancer journey with Cancer Focus NI have made a huge impact on my life,” said Kathy. “You realise you’re not isolated and by yourself and that there is somebody there who can support you.

“I don’t think Cancer Focus NI realises the positive impact they have on people’s lives, it’s life-changing.”

People can support Cancer Focus NI by making a donation at cancerfocusni.org/appeal, text FOCUS to 70660 to donate £5 or text FOCUS £10 to 70660 to donate £10.