A terminally ill Belfast woman is urging people across Northern Ireland to be part of the ‘teal takeover’ today as a month-long campaign begins in a bid to tackle the low level of awareness around Ovarian cancer.
Una Crudden, a mother-of-five from Poleglass, was diagnosed with the killer disease four years ago, by which stage she said it was “too late”.
Despite battling the illness, having had four intensive sessions of chemotherapy, Una has dedicated much of her time since 2009 to raising awareness of a disease she said could and should be detected much sooner than it is in many cases.
Being diagnosed around the same time as four other women in the surrounding area, and now being the only one left alive, is a sobering thought and a massive motivator, Una said.
The 59-year-old, who is urging everyone to wear the colour teal as an immediate eye-catcher in the campaign, has vowed she will not give up on the issue.
She has already pressed the Health Minister to implement a specific Ovarian Awareness Campaign here, and today will present a petition to Mr Poots at Stormont.
The symptoms of Ovarian Cancer are often confused with other less serious illnesses, but Una said accepting this is simply not good enough.
“In my case the doctor got it wrong and I am now paying with my life,” she said. “As far as I am concerned if I give up on this (campaign) now and die then it’s not going to happen.”
Since her diagnosis Una has given talks “to the ovarian cancer sufferers of tomorrow”.
“I might be from west Belfast but I will go into any area and talk to people about this - the disease does not care what religion you are or where you come from.”
A general awareness campaign on different types of cancer is not good enough, Una said.
“If it’s not on its own it won’t make the headlines,” she said. “There is great inter-party support for this - something needs to be done.”
The month of March is dedicated to raising awareness around ovarian cancer – and Una is at the forefront of the Northern Ireland campaign.
The symptoms, including persistent bloating, persistent pelvic and abdominal pain, difficulty eating and feeling full quickly, or feeling nauseous, are often confused with other less serious things like irritable bowel syndrome.
A survey by the Target Ovarian Cancer charity last month found that none of the women questioned in Northern Ireland were aware of the symptoms of the disease and some thought, incorrectly, that a cervical smear test could also detect ovarian cancer.
Last year almost 200 women here were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Visit www.targetovariancancer.org.uk for more information.