A GLENGORMLEY woman is urging local folk to put their best foot forward in walks that have been organised specifically for those who have had a cancer diagnosis.
Carol Annesley is a volunteer Walking Group Leader for the Cancer Focus charity - the new name for the Ulster Cancer Foundation. She has always enjoyed a healthy lifestyle and admits she found it difficult to accept when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The Cancer Focus Lavender Support Group helped her come to terms with her illness and now she is sharing her love of the outdoors by helping other patients as a volunteer leader with the charity’s walking service.
Carol (47), an accounts clerk from Glengormley was diagnosed four years ago.
She said: “I was a keen runner for eight or nine years before I became ill which is probably why I found it hard to accept my diagnosis - I’ve always tried to have a healthy lifestyle, getting exercise and eating properly and there was no family history of cancer. When I was feeling ill I got an awful lot of support from my family, friends and my running club, East Antrim Harriers, as well as from Cancer Focus.
“Three or four weeks after my surgery I was advised to go out for walks and get fresh air and started taking my dog Gypsy for short walks when I was feeling up to it. It was a brilliant way to get back into exercise again.
“A couple of years ago Morag Chambers, Volunteer Co-ordinator with Cancer Focus asked if I would be interested in helping with the charity’s walking groups. As I love to be active and know what the patients have been through I was very keen to take part.
“The walks are tailored to what the walkers feel they can manage. They encourage people to become more active and get fresh air, keep spirits up, build up patients’ strength and give them a chance to do a bit of socialising.
“So far I’ve helped with walks around the Valley Park in Newtownabbey, the Waterworks on Antrim Road and at Colin Glen in Belfast, and also further afield in Crawfordsburn and Castlewellan. The feedback so far is very positive - people really enjoy the walks and always want to know when the next one is planned. We would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to take part. It could be the start of many new friendships and will certainly add an inch to your step.”
The next Cancer Focus Northern Ireland walks in the Newtownabbey and Belfast areas for anyone who has been affected by cancer are on Saturday, August 11 - Loughshore from Jordanstown, 10.30am; Saturday, August 18 - Waterworks, Antrim Road, 10.30am and Saturday, August 25 - Lagan Meadows from Stranmillis, 10.30am
The Cancer Focus walks are free of charge and are open to patients currently undergoing cancer treatment as well as those who have completed their treatment.
Liz Atkinson, Head of Care Services, Cancer Focus, said: “Research from Denmark shows that cancer patients who engage in moderate exercise while under-going treatment suffer less from the debilitating effects of fatigue. Fatigue is one of the most commonly reported symptoms affecting cancer patients and has the greatest impact on quality of life. Our walking groups follow a slow and progressive walking programme that allows the body to gradually rebuild its normal levels of fitness.
“This service is also ideal for cancer patients who have completed their treatment. It is a great opportunity to meet new people and chat to others who are in a similar situation. We also encourage participants to bring a friend or family member. The walking group provides a schedule of easy walks that offer an accessible way of getting exercise and fresh air to enhance general wellbeing.”
If you would like to join a Cancer Focus walking group, or even volunteer as a leader, then contact Morag Chambers on Tel: 028 9066 3281 or email: email@example.com
Meanwhile, for more details about Cancer Focus’ free services log onto: www.cancerfocusni.org or call Tel: 028 9066 3281.