Courageous cancer survivor, Tara Millar, from Newtownabbey, led the charge at Race for Life Belfast on Bank Holiday weekend.
Tara, who had been travelling the world as a photographer on cruise ships prior to her diagnosis, stepped on stage to rally around 2,000 participants before sounding the air horn at Stormont Estate to kick off the 5K and 10K races - raising vital funds for Cancer Research UK.
The 33-year-old was diagnosed with cervical cancer on April 1 2015.
Unfortunately Tara was not suitable for surgery, as the cancer had already spread, but when she was given the chance to take part in a new clinical trial, funded by Cancer Research UK, she seized the opportunity.
“It was a very easy decision to make” said Tara, who was the first person in Northern Ireland to enter the trial.
She has just completed two years on the trial, which means she has now finished treatment and will be monitored for the next three years.
She said: “Treatment became my number one priority and everything else fell by the wayside.
“I looked different after steroids increased my weight and I had hair loss. I wasn’t able to exercise nor was I able to work.
“But I loved being part of a trial. It felt like I was doing everything I could to smack that tumour into oblivion and with the extra monitoring I had peace of mind knowing follow up is every three months.”
Her advice to others in the same position is, “It is imperative that we raise awareness. Although people are already aware of the existence of cancer, they should be adamant about getting check-ups, smears, screening etc. I missed one smear test where my cancer could possibly have been detected earlier and less treatment needed.
“Having a smear test done within five minutes is much easier than going through chemotherapy. It could mean the difference between life and death – why take the chance?”
Tara is now well and enjoying life to the full. Speaking to the crowds at the start of the race she said: “I’m very excited to be in support of all the people here today going through what I did, facing treatment, healing and recovering.
“Be brave, soak up the support from the people who are fighting and running right next to you. Our support from running this race today will help those today, tomorrow and in the future.”
The Race for Life was hosted by radio personalities Rebecca McKinney, Paulo Ross and Pete Snodden, who cheered everyone on as they crossed the start line.
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring series of 5k, 10k, and Pretty Muddy events which raises millions of pounds every year to help fund life-saving research.
Every hour someone in Northern Ireland is diagnosed with cancer. The money raised at Race for Life Belfast will help Cancer Research UK scientists find new ways to treat cancers and save more lives.
Race for Life event manager Katie Palmer added: “We want to say a heart-felt thanks to everyone who took part or supported our participants, as well as the wonderful volunteers who helped to make it happen.
“Sadly, most of us know someone whose life has been touched by cancer. But thanks to the huge progress that has been made in the fight against the disease, more people in Northern Ireland are surviving cancer than ever before.
“Our aim is that one day everyone will beat cancer. The more research we can fund, the sooner that day will come. Now the big day is over, we are asking our supporters to take one last step-by returning the money they have raised so that we can go on funding much needed research.”