CHRISTMAS is a special time for Glengormley woman Carol Annesley, who was diagnosed with cancer just before the festive holiday in 2008.
A member of the East Antrim Harriers Athletics Club, Carol has always enjoyed a healthy lifestyle and found it very difficult to accept the devastating news that she had breast cancer.
The Cancer Focus Northern Ireland Lavender support group for young women helped her come to terms with her illness. Now, as a champion for the charity, she will be taking part in the relay at next year’s Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon.
Cancer Focus, formerly the Ulster Cancer Foundation, is the official marathon charity for 2013.
The 48-year-old accounts clerk, who is married to Norman, explained how she discovered two small lumps in her breast shortly before Christmas 2008.
“I was diagnosed a few days before Christmas and had a mastectomy and breast reconstruction on December 31 - a Christmas I will never forget. That was followed by chemotherapy, radiotherapy and the cancer drug herceptin and now I have to take tamoxifen tablets for five years.
“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.
“Even four years later I still struggle to accept it at times and have my down days, but they are getting fewer. 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.”
Carol said that after her surgery she had been advised to get some fresh air and gentle exercise so started taking her dog Gypsy for short walks.
“It was a brilliant way to get back into exercise again. As my strength built up I started back to running. I have done a number of 5k and 10k races and I’m training at the minute to do a 10 mile race in Stockport. Previously I’d done the London Marathon and a few half marathons as well as local 5k and 10K races, and I’m delighted to say that in March I was fit enough to run my first half marathon at Wilmslow, Manchester.”
Carol got a tremendous lift from Cancer Focus’ Lavender support group.
“I didn’t know anyone else who had suffered from breast cancer and was so glad of someone to talk to who was in the same boat,” she said.
Since then Carol has also volunteered to lead one of the charity’s walking groups for cancer patients.
“I’m delighted to be Cancer Focus’s ambassador for the marathon. I’d urge as many people as possible to run the marathon or the relay or take part in the fun run/walk, which is perfect for families, and raise much needed funds for this wonderful charity at the same time.
“All the money raised will stay in Northern Ireland and will go towards the charity’s Men’s Health Campaign. Your help and support are invaluable. Please sign up today for your man - and every man.”
For more information telephone 9066 3281 or log on to www.cancerfocusni.org