Co Down sisters keeping alive the memory of their mother

Sisters Nuala, Sinead, Ciara, Emma who are preparing for the Race For Life in memory of their mother Margeret Cusack
Sisters Nuala, Sinead, Ciara, Emma who are preparing for the Race For Life in memory of their mother Margeret Cusack
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A year after losing their mother to cancer, four sisters from Downpatrick sisters are urging others to join them in taking part in Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life.

Margaret Cusack was diagnosed with lung cancer on September 21, 2016. She was someone who had never been ill, so her diagnosis came as quite a shock.

“Mum had a bad cough during Christmas 2015 and as it was dragging on, so we persuaded her to see her GP,” said her daughter Sinead, who is teaming up with sisters Nuala, Ciara and Emma for the race in May.

“She was diagnosed with bronchitis and advised to go home and rest, so she took two weeks off work and rested.

Working as a carer for the elderly for over 20 years, Margaret was loved by all her patients and work colleagues and she was very sad when the home closed down. However, she continued working with adults who had learning disabilities and again, her gentle kindness and thoughtfulness shone through.

“Dad was thinking of retirement,” continued Sinead, “So he and mum decided they would retire together after Christmas and they booked a cruise to celebrate, but as Mum’s cough persisted, Nuala and I persuaded her to get it checked again before their cruise.”

Margaret returned to her own doctor on July 18. She did bloods and put her on a course of antibiotics. Mum then had an X-ray at the Downe and the following week was called back for a CT scan. Another week passed and a phone call from her own doctor broke the news that something sinister had shown up in the CT.

“Mum was then referred to a respiratory consultant at the Ulster Hospital and two weeks later he delivered the devastating news that it was a small tumour at bottom of left lung but it had spread to lymph nodes in chest wall,” said Sinead.

“He then couldn’t tell us what stage it was at until a bronchoscopy and pet scan was done. Even though Mum had been told months earlier that they had spotted something sinister, she had to wait until 31st August before having the bronchoscopy.

There was even more bad news when Margaret attended for her Pet Scan, as they were unable to complete it because her blood sugars were too high and she was given the added diagnosis of diabetes.

“A week later the scan was completed and on September 21, 2016, we were given the shattering news that Mum had stage 3 lung cancer, which was treatable but not curable.” added Sinead.

“Sadly dreams of retirement with Dad and a wonderful cruise was not to be, as she lost her battle with cancer on January 6, 2017.

“On reflection, we feel that Mum had tried to protect us during this journey, by keeping a lot to herself. That was typical of her – a very private, quiet and humble woman who always put her family first – yet she was a tower of strength to all of us.

“Her passing has left a huge hole in our lives, but we are keen to advise people that if you have a cough that lasts longer than six weeks, please do go and see your doctor. It probably won’t be cancer, but if it is, the earlier it is diagnosed the greater the chance of survival.”

Every hour someone in Northern Ireland is diagnosed with cancer and the number of people being diagnosed with cancer has now reached around 9,000* cases each year.

That is why the charity is urging women of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities to choose their event - Race for Life 5k, 10k or Pretty Muddy - and pledge to take part in Belfast.

The 5k and 10k events kick off on Sunday, May 27 at 1030am at Stormont and by taking part you can make a real difference in the fight against cancer. Money raised will help Cancer Research UK scientists and doctors find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.

Money raised will help scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease, helping save more lives.

And if you feel like getting down and dirty, why not join Pretty Muddy on 1 September at Ormeau Park.

Jean Walsh, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman in Northern Ireland, said: “January is the perfect time to commit to getting a little more active and take on a new fitness challenge.

“Taking part in Race for Life is a hugely moving experience - full of emotion, courage, tears and laughter - as people come together to remember loved ones lost to cancer, celebrate the lives of those dear to them who have survived or support those going through treatment. By following Sinead’s lead local women can unite against a disease that affects us all in some way.”

“Race for Life events are non-competitive and participants can choose to walk, jog, or run around the course. Whether they’re planning a 5K stroll, a 10K sprint or a muddy splash around a Pretty Muddy course, every step women take will help to support life-saving research.

“Pledging to take part in this event is a great incentive for women to pull on their trainers and join thousands of ladies across the UK who are coming together in the fight against cancer. Money raised is helping to drive research to help beat over 200 different types of cancer- so every person, step and penny raised makes a real difference.”

One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives but the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before. Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.

Cancer Research UK’s life-saving work relies on the public’s support. Belfast is recognised worldwide for ground-breaking cancer research and thanks to the generosity of its supporters, the charity was able to spend around £3 million last year in Northern Ireland on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research - helping more men, women and children survive the disease.

During the month of January, women are being offered 30% off entry fees for Race for Life 5k, 10k and Pretty Muddy, so it is a great time for local ladies to kick start the New Year and commit to taking part.