Awards for All grant to Help Build Healthier Communities

Action Cancer has been awarded £9,996 from Awards for All to fund its Helping Build Healthier Communities project. This is part of a grants roll-out of £666,241 to 80 groups across Northern Ireland.

The grant to Action Cancer will be used to offer its Big Bus Service to six areas across Northern Ireland not normally covered by the resource.

“Since it was launched in 2006 the service has literally saved lives. We have provided over 24,500 breast screenings and 13,500 MOT health checks in that time and our figures show that from every 1,000 breast screenings, six cancers are detected,” said Sean Conlon, Big Bus Co-ordinator.

“Now, thanks to the funding, we are able to take the bus service to areas that we wouldn’t normally reach – outlying areas or places we haven’t been able to visit before. We offer services to complement the NHS programmes so we provide breast screening for women aged between 40 and 49 and those aged over 70, while our health check MOTs check things like people’s blood pressure and cholesterol.

“The service is popular because it makes looking after your health very straightforward and convenient. There’s no need to wait for an appointment at a surgery and perhaps have to take time off work to go along. With the bus parked in the heart of the community people can nip out in their lunch hour and be back at work or home again in 20 minutes.”

Mum-of-three Majella McKenna from Silverbridge in Co Armagh had her breast cancer detected on board Action Cancer’s Big Bus when it visited Warrenpoint in late 2011.

Majella McKenna and her son Caolan
Majella McKenna and her son Caolan

“When I was 40 I had my first mammogram. This was on board the Big Bus and I received a letter within a few weeks saying that everything was clear. It was on my second visit to the Big Bus that my breast cancer was detected and I was told further tests were needed.

“I had been referred to the Belfast City Hospital. I naturally felt very frightened. I drove up to Belfast and visited the hospital where the breast nurse explained to me that a shadow had been detected in my left breast and that further investigation was needed. That day I had another mammogram, a needle biopsy, a tissue biopsy and an ultrasound, it was all very overwhelming. I then waited for a week before my results came back.”

Majella was diagnosed with breast cancer but it was seated very far back into the left breast, which the surgeon told her could not have been found by self checking. The cancer had been detected at an early stage and was therefore treatable. “For this reason I am very grateful to Action Cancer, the Big Bus really did save my life,” said Majella.

She then had a lumpectomy in January 2012, followed by radiotherapy. During the operation some of Majella’s lymph nodes were removed to test to see if the cancer had spread.

“Following the operation the oncologist told me that I was border line for needing chemotherapy. Being a single mum I needed to think of my future. Having done some research and after seeking the advice of friends I decided to go for it. Having the treatment was a struggle and as my hair started to fall out my confidence took a big hit but the whole time I kept thinking I’m doing this for my kids,” she said.

“In January of this year I had a mammogram and I am pleased to report that I am cancer free. The next step for me is to potentially look at reconstructive surgery. My journey has been a difficult one but I am still here and my kids still have a mum. I can’t thank Action Cancer enough.”

For information on how to apply for Awards for All funding please visit our website

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