Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland


Five years after her own cancer battle, Claire is loving life as a volunteer

Claire Mellan A LOCAL woman who fought a rare form of cancer five years ago is urging people to give up some of their free time to work for NI Cancer Fund for Children.

Claire Mellan was just 23 when she was struck down without warning by an aggressive form of desmoplastic small round cell cancer that affected her abdomen and ovaries.

The illness came to light when Claire collapsed at home one day around Christmas in 2003 without warning. At first it was thought she had appendicitis but after further investigation a lump was found on her ovary crushing her stomach.

So rare was her condition, which is mostly found in male adolescents, that the family contacted a surgeon in America to get more information on the rare form of cancer. Once she was diagnosed she was put on a six month long course of chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant in Belfast City Hospital.

The treatment was a success and Claire has remained in remission ever since but still has a yearly check up..

As a way of putting something back Claire began working as a volunteer three years ago for the NI Cancer Fund for Children.

Now 29 she works as an assistant buyer for RFD Beaufort in Dunmurry but still finds time to volunteer for the charity in her spare time. She spends most weekends in Newcastle where groups go for residential weekends.

"A friend told me about the charity and I had an interest in child psychology anyway so I was eager to help out in whatever way I could," Claire said.

NI Cancer Fund for Children hold weekends away to the Mournes for children and their siblings between the ages of 8 to 21.

"I love doing it and it is something close to my heart," said Claire. "It is so rewarding and you can do as little as you want or as much as you want but they do need volunteers. There is always something to do whether it be residential outings, coffee mornings or whatever. "I would encourage anyone who wants to volunteer their time to go ahead and do it - it is so rewarding.

It is an amazing charity which gives young people the chance to escape from their own experiences with cancer and find comfort in sharing experiences with each other. I really look forward to the weekend residentials and working with young people. I always manage to find time to volunteer at weekends throughout the year.

"Last year, I got the chance to bring a group of young people sailing with the Ellen Macarthur Trust; we spent four amazing days navigating our way around the Isle of Wight. This is just one of the many experiences I have shared with the charity and I look forward to many more.

"Volunteering is an escape from the normal day to day routine and gives you the opportunity to do something really valuable, the only cost is a little time. The satisfaction you feel knowing that you are helping the charity carry out their great work is priceless."

The NI Cancer Fund for Children provides practical, emotional and social support to children and young people diagnosed with cancer, their families, and those children and young people living with cancer in a family member. To facilitate this vital work, the charity relies heavily on the support provided by volunteers.

If you would be willing to help in any of a number of roles, including administrative duties, support at fundraising events and helping at weekends at the charity's youth facility Narnia, Newcastle contact Peter on 9080 5599 or email

Ulster Star