OCTOBER is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Karen Blythe from Lisburn is urging all women to be breast aware and to seek immediate help if they think they may have a problem. Cancer is an ongoing battle for Karen from Haddington Hill. She was first diagnosed three years ago with breast cancer after her sister had also been diagnosed.
Although she had no symptoms Karen decided to get checked out after a little gentle persuasion from her family.
"My younger sister Sandra Mcllroy (39) had been diagnosed and our GP suggested that all the sisters get checked out" Karen recalled. "So my older eldest sister Rhonda and I went for screening together.
"When she got the all-clear and I got a letter referring me for further tests I was naturally very anxious."
Karen's main concern was for daughters Sophie (10) and Kathryn (5) who, she said, has handled things with 'amazing strength and maturity.' Karen, a production planner at RFD Beaufort in Dunmurry, continued: "I think seeing what had happened their Aunty Sandra prepared them when I had surgery (for a partial mastectomy) and when I lost my hair they would say things like 'mum you are just like aunty Sandra'."
Following radiotherapy and chemotherapy things began to return to normal for Karen until she was given the devastating news during a routine scan that she had secondary cancer in her lungs.
"This meant further surgery and chemo and a much worse diagnosis," said Karen.
"I don't know why this happened to me but I just have to draw on my strong faith and take each day at a time and everything as it comes.
"I don't look too far ahead now, I just concentrate on my family and my friends.
"My husband Brian has been amazing and his strength has helped me. We just try to be as normal as possible for the girls.
"I have been to Mexico, which I believe helped me, and I have a better lifestyle and diet. I would strongly advise all women to be breast aware as the sooner a problem is detected the earlier treatment can begin.
"I try to laugh every day and to just enjoy the life I have right here and now," she said.
Anyone who is aged 40-49 or 70 is asked to take advantage of Action Cancer's services. They can book appointments for breast screening by ringing Action Cancer on 028 9080 3344 or by completing the form in your local Gordons Chemist.