Maura steps up to support cancer charity

Maura steps up to support cancer charity

8 August 2018

MAURA Gilmore was overjoyed when her mum tracked down her biological mother ten years ago — even though it led to her being warned that she was a carrier of a cancer-causing gene.

The warning was sadly prophetic as the Kircubbin mother discovered just three years later that she had breast cancer.

Today she and her two sons Shay (8) and Cadain (6) are calling on other parents and their children to take part in Cancer Research UK’s first Pretty Muddy Kids obstacle race event in Belfast.

While the fitness fanatic has become a fundraiser and spokesperson for several cancer charities, she still marvels at the “miracle” of how the family reunion saved her life.

She has been recalling how she found out she was the carrier of the faulty BRCA2 gene, which left her more susceptible to developing cancer of the breast and ovaries.

“We’ve always known that mum was adopted. She had always wondered who her real mother was as most people do who are adopted. In 2007, she started to look into finding her mother and with help from the Good Shepherd centre in Belfast, she found her real mum living in Omagh.”

Maura explained that her mum Phyllis got to meet her biological mother several times before she died about six months later from cancer.

Phyllis also discovered half brothers and sisters warned her that cancer ran in the family and advised for her to get tested to see if she too had the cancer gene.

“Mum decided to be tested and found out that she was a carrier, even though she never had cancer. After that was confirmed, we were all tested,” said 43 year-old Maura.

In 2009, at the age of 34, Maura found out that she was a BRCA2 gene carrier, as were her sister Claire and Oliver, one of her four brothers.

Also married in that year, she decided to put off any surgery to remove breast tissue or ovaries as she wanted to have children.

Angelina Jolie had a double preventative mastectomy breast tissue and had her ovaries removed in 2013 after she discovered she was a gene carrier.

“It was literally within four years after that I found out I had the BRCA gene that I was told I had breast cancer,” recalls Maura. “I was going for MRI scans every year to see if there was any changes in my breast and had blood tests as well to check for ovarian cancer. 

“I wanted to leave it until I was 40 as you tend to put to the back of your mind. I had three scans and the one in December 2012 showed that there had been a small change in one of my breasts.”

A follow-up biopsy a short time later on January 15, confirmed Maura’s worst fears.

“My marriage had split up the previous year so when I went for the biopsy that’s all I was thinking about to be honest. The kids were only one and two at the time. I remember thinking how glad I was to have some peace and quiet at the clinic only to be told I had breast cancer,” she continued.

“All I remember then is phoning my sister. I never even spoke to her and I just started crying. Everything after that is a blur.”

Maura also had a double mastectomy with reconstruction. She faced gruelling chemotherapy after surgery, followed by the removal of her ovaries as a preventative measure.

“My whole world just collapsed,” she admitted. “My marriage had split up the previous year and I was on my own with two boys. It was pretty tough.”

Maura’s tumour was 11mm in size and was caught early. She was told that as it was sited closer to her rib, it would have been difficult to find during self-examination, perhaps not being detectable by touch at all.  

Maura would also not have been offered a mammogram until she was 40.

“Really it’s a miracle,” she continued: “Sometimes when I sit and think about it, I was so lucky that the MRI scan picked it up. I wouldn’t have had a clue about the cancer without it.”

Maura now wants to do everything she can to help Cancer Research UK and hopes to have a great time at the Pretty Muddy event.

“The boys had great fun launching the new Pretty Muddy Kids event. I wouldn’t be here for my two boys if 

it wasn’t for research,” she added. “Cancer does affect the whole family. My oldest boy remembers when I went through treatment and it caused him a lot of worry.

“Even now if I say that I’m not feeling well, they get very anxious. They say, ‘Mummy, please don’t get that medicine that makes your hair fall out’.”

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring women-only series of 5k, 10k and Pretty Muddy events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer sooner by funding vital research. The entry fee for the new Pretty Muddy Kids event is £10. 

It’s open to boys and girls aged from five to 12 years old with a minimum height requirement of 1.2 metres.

All children must be accompanied by a supervising adult, who have free entry to the event.

To enter Race for Life Pretty Muddy Kids today go to or call 0300 123 0770.