Banbridge breast cancer survivor on running mission for charity

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AN inspirational breast cancer survivor, from Banbridge, is preparing for her third 10K run for the charity that has supported her during her brave battle.

Mum-of-three Angela Taylor, from Summerhill, will take part in the Moy Park Belfast City Women's 10K on Sunday, June 23 to raise funds for Cancer Focus NI.

Following her diagnosis in October 2021, Angela availed of Cancer Focus NI’s specialist counselling service and the charity has been with her each step of the way ever since.

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As a way of giving ‘something back’, the 53-year-old became a volunteer in the Cancer Focus shop in Newry Street, Banbridge, a role which she finds hugely rewarding.

Angela with daughter Abbie.Angela with daughter Abbie.
Angela with daughter Abbie.

In sharing her story, Angela hopes she can inspire and encourage others on a similar journey.

“It was at the end of September 2021 that I felt a pain at the right side of my right breast,” she recalled.

“I thought I had bumped it and bruised it, and it wasn’t until I put my hand round to feel it that I felt a lump.

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“I’ve had cysts before so I thought it was another cyst. I was wrongly under the illusion that if it's painful it’s not a tumour or cancer, so I wasn't remotely worried at all.

Breast cancer survivor and now a volunteer with Cancer Focus, Banbridge woman, Angela Taylor. Pic: Paul Byrne Photography.Breast cancer survivor and now a volunteer with Cancer Focus, Banbridge woman, Angela Taylor. Pic: Paul Byrne Photography.
Breast cancer survivor and now a volunteer with Cancer Focus, Banbridge woman, Angela Taylor. Pic: Paul Byrne Photography.

“I phoned my doctor and she got me up to see her straight away. She examined me and thought it was a cyst herself. But, to be on the safe side, she sent me to Craigavon.

“They did a mammogram and ultrasound. I was aware that they were taking longer than they had done previously - and this time they were focusing under my arm as well.

“They thought it looked like a tumour so they took a biopsy and said they would have a look at my lymph nodes as well.”

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Looking back Angela admitted she “wasn’t remotely worried” but, later that day, her life was turned upside down.

Senior Social Work Practitioner Dearbhaile McMahon, and Social Worker Assistant, Veronica Kerr, who have been an “amazing” support throughout Angela's cancer journey.Senior Social Work Practitioner Dearbhaile McMahon, and Social Worker Assistant, Veronica Kerr, who have been an “amazing” support throughout Angela's cancer journey.
Senior Social Work Practitioner Dearbhaile McMahon, and Social Worker Assistant, Veronica Kerr, who have been an “amazing” support throughout Angela's cancer journey.

“The nurse took me in and there were two other people in the room…I knew something was wrong.

“They told me it was a tumour and it looked like it was in my lymph nodes. They arranged to bring me back for a CT scan the next week.

“They asked me if I had any questions for them. The three things that came to my mind were: am I going to lose my hair? Am I going to lose my breast? Am I going to die?

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“I went outside, sat on one of the benches outside the hospital and bawled. Then I had to come home and tell my children the news.”

Still processing her shock diagnosis, Angela was dealt another blow following further scans.

“They told me they had found a second cancer in the same breast - in a cluster form under the nipple.

“All the lymph nodes in my right arm would have to come out and I’d lose my breast completely.

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“They were going to start me on chemo within 10 days and I needed radiotherapy afterwards as well.

“I was just getting my head round the first news and you do not expect to go back and get more bad news.”

Setbacks during her chemotherapy - including sickness, a blood clot, contracting Covid twice, severe colitis and shingles - meant that Angela’s surgery was put back to April 2022.

Her radiotherapy - consisting of 15 blasts - concluded in August 2022.

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“It was only then that I started to feel a bit more normal again,” Angela revealed.

“Around September time I started volunteering in the Storehouse foodbank and also with Cancer Focus.

“The foodbank had looked after us at the start. I'm a single mum and my company didn't pay sick pay. As much as everyone was saying to me at the time, ‘stop worrying about your finances, you need to focus on your health’. I, naturally, still had concerns about who was going to pay the bills.

“The foodbank helped me out and Cancer Focus provided counselling, so I wanted to go back and volunteer as a way of saying ‘thank you’.”

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In recent months, Angela has encountered more complications and is currently awaiting a surgery date for issues with her reconstructive surgery.

“It feels like two steps forward and one step back,” she admitted.

“I currently have capsular contracture which basically means the scar tissue all around my implant tightens, becoming extremely painful and hard and it can shift the implant too.

“This was another little surprise I was not aware of prior to my reconstruction. So my implant must be removed.

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"The next stage is going to be no breast at all, because they think that if they put a new implant in, we could end up with the same issue again because everything is so upset, so I'm going to have to let it heal for a couple years and then reconsider. I'm dreading it to be honest, but it has to be done.

“Luckily, Cancer Focus offers a free bra fitting service for all ladies going through breast surgery.

“Emma is amazing and, once fitted with the right bra and prosthesis, it helps make you feel like a woman again.”

Despite everything she’s been through, Angela has a positive outlook on life and is determined to use her own experience to help others.

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She took part in her first 10K in June 2023 and hasn’t looked back. She’s now set for her third race.

“I had already registered to do the 10K next month before I found out I was going to need more surgery.

“I said to the team, if my surgery ends up being before the run, I will walk it because there’s nothing wrong with my legs. I’m determined to do it no matter what.”

Poignantly, Angela will be joined on race day by Senior Social Work Practitioner Dearbhaile McMahon, and Social Worker Assistant, Veronica Kerr, who have been an “amazing” support throughout her cancer journey.

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The three women are currently looking into the feasibility of setting up a cancer support group in Banbridge, and Angela would be keen to hear from anyone who would be interested in attending or getting involved.

“I would like to have a support group for all cancers, as I don’t want to leave anybody out,” she said.

“The cancer figures this year are frightening - and we’re only in May. There has been a 22% increase in breast cancer alone.

“I want to do as much as I can in this field. That’s my happy place, being able to do things to help others and give them a lift. It keeps me going on my low days.

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“I get more satisfaction out of my volunteering work than I did from my 40-hour paid job.”

To donate to Angela’s fundraising for Cancer Focus, visit: www.justgiving.com/page/angela-taylor-1704072232687

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