Banbridge woman opens up on her cancer battle ahead of third 10K for charity

20 May 2024

A NI woman has opened up on her cancer battle ahead of her third 10K for the charity that's supported her. Angela Taylor was diagnosed with breast cancer on October 5, 2021, when she was 51. 

Banbridge woman opens up on her cancer battle ahead of third 10K for charity

The Banbridge woman had found a painful lump, but was under the impression that because it was sore that 'there was nothing to worry about'. Having had cysts previously that required draining, she visited her GP who referred her to the Breast Clinic.

She was then told by an oncologist that she had a HER2 positive tumour in her right breast and in lymph nodes in her right arm.

Her treatment involved chemotherapy, followed by a lumpectomy, radiotherapy, and a year of Herceptin injections.

The mum-of-three underwent further scans that discovered further cancer, which presented as a cluster under the nipple in her right breast. She had a mastectomy and reconstruction too.

Angela is currently awaiting another surgery date for issues with her reconstructive surgery.

She told Belfast Live: "This year has not been as good as last year. I have been back and forward, from last summer I suppose. I have severe nerve damage from my mastectomy, which has been really bad.

"At the start of this year, my mastectomy reconstructive breast was agony, it was roaring red and I actually thought my implant had burst... The implant has actually shifted and it has caused a lot of upset with all the tissue around it. There was a bad infection in it. The whole thing is having to come out. I am on the urgent surgery list."

Cancer Focus NI’s specialist counselling service has been there to support Angela, prompting her to sign up to her first 10K to raise funds.

Angela has also lost two and a half stone after joining Slimming World, began volunteering in a food bank after her treatment, and started volunteering in the Cancer Focus shop in Banbridge.

The mum-of-three said: "All these things I was doing, one, to say thank you, two, to keep myself mentally busy, and three, to start socialising again, because I had been isolated for so long, as the restrictions were really tight when I was having my treatment.

"I'm still struggling mentally more than physically with how much I've changed and it's really strange, but I'm trying to find myself again, I still feel quite lost, and physically dealing with how my body looks.

"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."

Angela is grateful for the support she has received from Cancer Focus Northern Ireland.

Speaking about her first 10K in June 2023, the 53-year-old said: "I finished treatment on the 5th of June and I flew to Gran Canaria on the 6th of June, and I came back 10 days later and did the 10K. I wasn't expecting to run half of it, but I ran quite a bit of it, I was quite chuffed at myself because I'd never done one before."

The mum-of-three also explained how her social worker Dearbhaile McMahon has been through her entire journey with her, and the difference she has made is "amazing".

"We were always getting into arguments because she's like, 'You're my inspiration', and I'm like, 'no, you're my inspiration'."

Angela took part in the Go Pink Campaign for Cancer Focus in October, completing her second 10K while on holiday, and Dearbhaile completed it in her place in NI.

"She raised over £600," the Banbridge woman added. Angela is set to do her third 10K run for Cancer Focus this June, joined by Dearbhaile and her colleague, Social Worker Assistant, Veronica Kerr, for "company and support".

Although she is waiting for a surgery date, Angela is determined and says “she will crawl around the route if she has to”.

"Even if I have surgery before the 10K, there is nothing wrong with me from the waist down. I'm doing it no matter what happens," she explained.

Dearbhaile said: “I met Angela when she was initially diagnosed with breast cancer. She was incredibly worried about what it meant for her, her work and her children. Her life had just been turned upside down and she really needed emotional support outside of her family.

"The multi-disciplinary team senior social work practitioner role, is a unique role that has enabled me to support Angela every step of the way, and I have been privileged to do so. It also means that I am aware of the exceptional cancer support services that were available to her and I was able to signpost her to the counselling and bespoke bra fitting services that Cancer Focus NI provide. These services are a vital lifeline."

The Senior Social Work Practitioner added: "Angela’s strength throughout her cancer journey has been an inspiration, and her willingness to share her story has no doubt inspired other women in a similar position. She is an incredible woman, and I could not have been prouder to walk on her behalf at Cancer Focus NI’s Pink Run in 2023.

"This year at the Moy Park Belfast City Women’s 10K, I will walk side by side throughout the route with Angela and am so thankful to everyone who has donated to help ensure that this charity is there for more women and families at their time of need.”

Angela has also thanked employees of the charity, Ciaran and Fionnuala, who she says have been an "absolutely fantastic" support.

The Banbridge woman added: "There have been two gigantic plusses from my illness. One is that working yourself into the ground is not living. And the other is, I have made precious friends for life that I never would have me, they know who they are!

Written by Nadia Breen, Belfast Live