Have your ‘bras’ at the ready as Belfast shapes up to turn pink for the return of The Bra Walk, Action Cancer’s annual 10k Walk taking place on Friday, June 16, 2017, in aid of the charity’s life-saving breast screening service.
The Bra Walk starts at Belfast City Hall at 7pm. Action Cancer is encouraging men, women and children of all ages to take part in the fun-filled family event.
Walkers are encouraged to dress in pink and walk in memory of a loved one or to just join in the fun and raise awareness and funds to support the 11,000 breast screenings that the charity provides annually.
Action Cancer Ambassador Amanda Higginbottom will cut the pink ribbon to mark the start of the 10k walk.
Amanda’s breast cancer was detected on board Action Cancer’s Big Bus in Antrim in July 2015.
“In 2012 the Big Bus visited my workplace. Aged 42, I had never had a mammogram before. I was a little nervous stepping on board the Big Bus but the procedure was very quick and only mildly uncomfortable. I was relieved to receive the all clear following my first visit.”
The Big Bus returned to Amanda’s workplace in July 2015; “Aged 45, I was happy to return for my second mammogram on board the Big Bus, I knew what to expect, I had no lumps or bumps and nothing to be concerned about, or so I thought.”
Within a few weeks Amanda’s colleagues had all received letters saying that their screenings were fine but Amanda’s letter said that something had been detected on the breast screening and required follow up.
“Even though I was the only one at work who received a letter of this nature, I tried to stay positive. I knew that there could be multiple reasons why I had been forwarded on for further investigation, it wasn’t necessarily cancer- I tried not to fear the worst but it did play on my mind.”
Amanda brought her partner Baz with her to her appointment at the City Hospital. She underwent a series of tests which included physical examination of the right breast (where nothing could be found), more x-rays from different angles, an ultrasound and some biopsies. Following this Amanda was diagnosed with breast cancer in the right breast- ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and in addition, cancer cells were found in the lymph nodes.
Amanda was shocked to receive her diagnosis; “You never expect cancer to happen to you, it’s something that happens to other people. When I broke the news to my family and friends, I didn’t think that I was talking about me, but someone else. It was a very surreal experience. Baz was my rock and I don’t know what I would have done without him- whatever this diagnosis throws at me, we agreed to deal with it together.”
In September 2016 Amanda received the news that following her treatment she is now cancer free. She was then to finally receive further Herceptin injections from the hospital every three weeks. The side effects of this are that she experiences joint pain and generally feels exhausted; “I do a very good impression of a 90-year-old with severe arthritis when I stand up and sit down! Other than that I’m getting slowly but surely back to my normal self. My mind is ahead of my body and I want to do more than I’m actually capable of and that’s what I’m struggling with at the minute. I started back to work on a phased return and feel like I am beginning to get my life back.
“I didn’t know before that the screening was available in Belfast and even if I had, it’s probably not something I would have bothered to do. It was the very fact that the Big Bus came to me, right to my place of work that I went for an appointment. I was 45 when my breast cancer was detected, if I had waited until the NHS screening programme kicked in at 50, I’m convinced it would have been too late for me.”
Amanda’s message to other women aged 40-49 and 70 plus is this; “Go and get screened with Action Cancer. Don’t rely on self-checking your breasts, while this is important, mammograms detect things long before there is anything to feel. Be proactive and book yourself a free mammogram, either on board the Big Bus when it’s next in your area or at Action Cancer House in Belfast.
“If I hadn’t stepped on the Big Bus, my outcome could have been very different. Thank you Action Cancer and the Big Bus for saving my life.”
It is anticipated that more than 1,000 participants will take part, with a sea of pink feathers, sequins and bras as the walkers make their way through the city. Registration is now open priced at £12 per adult (16+) and £5 per child,everyone taking part will receive The Bra Walk bag for life and complementary pink t-shirt.
All participants are encouraged to raise a minimum of £80 in sponsorship, the amount it costs Action Cancer to provide digital breast screening for one women aged 40 – 49 and over 70.
For every 1,000 women Action Cancer screen, an average of six breast cancers are detected at an early and more treatable stage. In 2016 Action Cancer screened over 11,000 women and in doing so detected over 65 cancers. The peace of mind provided to the thousands of other women is also of great importance.
Screening is available at Action Cancer House in South Belfast and on board the charity’s Big Bus, supported by SuperValu and its independent retailers. If you are aged 40 to 49 or 70+ book your free breast screening online at www.actioncancer.org or by calling 028 9080 3344.