Cairncastle woman raises £25k for breast cancer services in one night

An east Antrim cancer survivor has raised over £25,000 for organisations close to her heart.

Joanne Mulvenna, from Cairncastle held a ‘Think Pink Gala’ in November with proceeds going to breast cancer services.

In 2018 when Joanne found a small lump on her breast, she did get checked but she was so confident it was nothing – she was wrong.

Family life turned upside down as she was diagnosed with stage three aggressive breast cancer. For 15 months she endured a gruelling treatment plan including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and Herceptin.

Joanne with her fundraising team

Joanne recalled: “On my 50th birthday, I started to lose my hair, this was personally devastating. My son Kieran often says he remembers me saying ‘how can you be a hairdresser without hair?’.”

The impact this has had on Joanne was life changing, mentally and physically and as a hairdresser she found the hair loss even more difficult to face choosing to wear a wig - none of her family ever saw her without hair.

She accepts “losing hair, is a small sacrifice”, but feels the ability to control at least one of the side effects from chemo, especially as a woman, can make a very positive impact.

Joanne discovered a treatment called ‘cool caps’ which can help prevent or lessen hair loss which occurs during chemotherapy in some breast cancer cases and has lobbied for it to become available through the NHS in Northern Ireland.

Joanne and her four children, Andrea, Christopher, Kieran and Micheala, taking part in the head shave,

Which is what has driven her to fundraise. Joanne held a ‘Think Pink Gala’ at the Ballygally Castle Hotel on November 5. The event included a head shave for her two sons, Christopher and Kieran, which was carried out by Joanne and her daughters, Micheala and Andrea.

Joanne expressed thanks to everyone who contributed to the event from the donation of prizes for ballot and auction, to all who attended the event and her two sons whose head shave raised £2700 on a go-fund-me page.

No Decision

With no decision in relation to the cool the caps at this time, all monies raised through the event are going to breast cancer services in the Northern Trust, including Macmillan Unit, Antrim Hospital, Breast Cancer Services, Laurel House and Friends of the Cancer Centre, Belfast, who looked after Joanne so well.

Joanne has expressed thanks to everyone who supported the fundraising effort.

Every penny raised will be used to help people like Joanne and “the people we all know who have been diagnosed with breast cancer”.

Statistics show that one in 10 women in Northern Ireland will get breast cancer in their lifetime. Around 1,400 women in the province are diagnosed with breast cancer every year - about 80% of these are over the age of 50. But it can happen to both younger women and a small number of men.

Joanne continues to fight for the cool caps to give cancer sufferers a chance to avoid losing their hair. She is now almost five years post cancer and can say she is cancer free. She is grateful to be a survivor, not everyone she met along the journey have had the privilege to say that.

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Joanne continues to raise money “in memory of those who have lost their battle and for the many (sadly) who will get a diagnosis and a battle ahead”.