A YOUNG local woman has spoken of the impact the Cedar Foundation has had on her life after she was diagnosed with a brain tumour at just 11 years old.
23-year-old Katrina Black, who currently works for the Cedar Foundation at their Balmoral office, said the Society, which works with disabled adults and children with the aim of making everyone fully included citizens, has been "great" for her.
As Brain Injury Awareness Week, which ran from May 17-23, ended, a number of local people who attend the Cedar Foundation's meetings, told their stories through poetry, art, photography and prose when they met at the Bridge Community Centre and had a coffee afternoon to view and discuss their work. Speaking about her association with the Cedar Foundation, Katrina, who is from the Dunmurry area said: "I was a kid without any problems when I was growing up. I used to go to Irish dancing and was a member of the Briginis.
"When I was eleven I was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Living with a brain injury is very tough on you and your family. It is quite difficult when you have a disability that is noticeable."
Describing the symptoms which first alerted her, Katrina stated: "I had a shaky hand which seemed to get worse, it got worrying when I found I couldn't carry a cup of tea or coffee from the kitchen into the living room without spilling some and my handwriting also got worse. I went to the hospital and I was sent for a CAT scan where they found the tumour. When I was told I didn't know what to think and it all happened so fast and I was quite young so I didn't really understand. "After my surgery my life changed and things were quite different. I had to use a wheelchair for some time because my balance was badly affected. I also had problems with my eyesight."
The former Fleming Fulton pupil added: "There were some difficult times but things got better in time. The Cedar Foundation has been great for me. They have supported me and helped me look for a job. Cedar has given me confidence through work experience, employment and dealing with different issues in my life. Also there have been so many different opportunities where I met different people with brain injuries who understand me and we get on well."
Katrina's story, as well as many other stories from those who are part of the Cedar Foundation, can now be viewed online at www.cedar-foundation.org.
Elaine Armstrong, Cedar's Head of Brain Injury Services said, "During Brain Injury Awareness Week we have given people the opportunity to tell their stories of living with Brain Injury and how they deal with the challenges this brings on a daily basis. We meet many very different people who have all experienced a life changing event. We know that they will bring inspiration to those who read their stories."
Lisburn man Craig Ferguson also shared his story as part of Brain Injury Awareness Week. Craig stated: "I have a weakness down my left hand side as a result of my motor vehicle accident. Cedar have given me the opportunity of going to tech and doing CLAIT and also supported me through my NVQ Level 2 in Business Administration. Cedar has also given me the opportunity to gain work experience in different working environments." To find out more about the Cedar Foundation telephone 028 90666188 or log on to the website www.cedarfoundation.org.