Mums and chums pushing a bed from Lisburn to Belfast to raise £150,000 for life-saving cancer treatment for friend Rita
Victoria Crothers, along with her two sisters, Jacqueline and Tracey, their six children, Louis, Ross, Connor, Grace, Emily and Harri and a few other friends, plan to push a bed the 9.3 miles from Lisburn to Belfast City Hall..
The group are raising money for their friend 48-year-old Rita McAlonan, from Crumlin, who was diagnosed with metastic breast cancer on January 5, 2021.
Victoria said: “Rita has had to fight a really hard fight to still be here today, and she is still fighting.
"We are not athletes; we are just hard-working mums and chums who have been touched by Rita’s beautiful soul and are blessed to have her in our lives.
"We feel that the bed push is going to be a really hard task, but not as hard as what Rita has been going through every day since her diagnosis.
"Her husband James and two children Conor and James will be there to cheer us on.”
The group, who have so far raised £6,500 on GoFundMe, are hoping to raise £150,000, with the money going towards treatment abroad in either Mexico, the US or Spain.
Rita’s husband James, described his wife as an “incredible woman”, who has spent her life giving to and supporting others.
"She has dedicated her life making sure me and the boys are happy, healthy and well cared for so now it’s our turn to help her. She just wants to live her life, continue her work and grow old with me.”
James said Rita took on her treatment bravely during the Covid pandemic.
"This wasn’t easy as we were in full lockdown and the supporting services normally offered to cancer patients weren’t available. She completed eight heavy chemo protocols over six months, then had to endure radical surgery, which has left her with reduced mobility, nerve damage, and she is in constant pain.
"Forty-five sessions of radiotherapy followed shortly after, which left her skin burnt and painful.
" During this gruelling regime she was also on three weekly painful injections of an immunotherapy drug which made her unwell and caused more pain.”
James added: “Me and the kids watched as she courageously took all this on and, for 15 months remained positive and hopeful it would all be worth it.”
But then the family received the devastating news that the cancer had recurred and it had changed character.
“It was now a more aggressive form of this metastatic disease. Rita was rediagnosed with Stage 4 secondary breast cancer. Again, she had to receive this devastating news alone.
"She was told her life would be shortened and that the disease is incurable but she refused and refuses still to allow doctors to put an expected end of life on her because no doctor is God and she has a strong determination to still beat this disease. Her strong belief has got her this far.”
James added Rita has limited use of her left hand and arm and has limited feeling in her right hand “all due to the treatment she has endured to beat this disease”, whilst she has also spent some time in Hospice care.
In 2022, the family self-funded a treatment plan in an alternative hospital, but the cancer continued to spread.
"Rita got to experience being treated in a hospital that uses not only allopathic (conventional) and alternative treatments alongside a focus on the spiritual side of healing,” said James.
"We continue to ask for positive intention and prayers as it’s our belief that we need more than medicine to heal. Rita continues to support herself holistically whilst continuing palliative chemotherapy. Unfortunately, we are only offered palliative care in the UK and it’s failing and she’s getting more ill.”
James said the family has run out of treatment options in the UK and are raising funds to avail of the treatments elsewhere.
“After lots of research and studying we have identified a number of clinics who may be able to help her. We are currently speaking with physicians in these hospitals and gathering treatment options and pricing. The treatments that we are seeking are with doctors who have perfected their techniques and are experts in the treatment Rita needs.
"Down the line we also plan to give back to the number of local charities who have supported us.”
"We are a private family who like to keep our business to ourselves and it was a tough decision to ask strangers to help us pay for cancer treatment but Rita is a mum and leaving her children is just not an option.
“We are running out of time and need to get her to one of these hospitals asap.
"She may have to leave us for a few months and is heartbroken about that but these are very tough decisions we have to make. She would rather plan this than plan a funeral.”
*The bed pushers will set off from Lisburn at 10am tomorrow and hope to arrive in Belfast at 2pm. The single bed that will be used has been custom-made by Graham Duncan from Aghalee.
Handles have been attached to aid the volunteers in pushing the bed. A pop-up event will be held at Belfast’s Cornmarket between 1pm and 3pm
To donate visit: https://gofund.me/68f391a2 #hopeforrita.