Strong and determined Angela McCabe is not taking her terminal cancer diagnosis laying down - and despite her illness even ran a leg of the recent Belfast Marathon.
The inspirational local mother of two young children was given the diagnosis of the rare form of cancer - neuroendocrine cancer (NEC) - last summer.
Despite being given a limited future, Angela is battling positively to survive - for the sake of her husband Frank and their two young children, Emma (7) and Michael (5).
Clever and bubbly, Angela, who is just 39 years old, enthuses about her family and her determination to beat the illness.
Initially she had no symptoms, apart from a constant twinge in her groin but knew something was wrong. She persisted in telling her doctor who sent her for a scan.
After discovering a 7cm tumour, she had a major operation and unfortunately it turned out to be cancer which had spread to her lymph nodes.
“We never used the cancer word with the kids. I just said mummy had a bad cell and it needed removed and I was going to be a bit sick with the medicine,” said Angela, who is a former pupil of St Brendan’s Primary School, Craigavon, and Lismore Comprehensive.
An IT manager with blue zinc IT in Belfast, Angela has tried to keep a normal family home through all her chemotherapy and treatment, but admits it had been a struggle at times.
“I am a strong, determined and positive person. I like to deal with things head on. I had very few symptoms but I was persistent with the doctor. I knew something was wrong.”
With her husband Frank, who works at Almac, the couple were recommended to go to Charis Cancer Care - a special haven in the mountains high above Cookstown at the magical Lough Fea.
“I started chemotherapy in September 2017 in Belfast City Hospital. This involved five intensive rounds of treatment. In between cycles, there is a time when you feel well enough to do something. For me, it was a trip to Charis Cancer Care. From the scenic drive, to my quality time at the centre, I can only describe the experience as something my husband and I really looked forward to. The Charis team are supportive and friendly. As for the setting, it’s idyllic and the staff always greet you with a smile. Everyone remembers your name and the services are really beneficial. I availed of counselling, reflexology and massage.”
Angela’s husband Frank McCabe adds: “As a family, we feel truly blessed to have found Charis. Recommended by Macmillan Cancer Support, this is a complete haven of calm. When I first arrived here, I did not feel I was deserving of the treatments. However, my attitude has changed. I need to be fit and healthy to care for my wife and our children.
“One of the best pieces of advice we received at Charis was to take time out and enjoy a holiday to Spain and importantly not mention the C word in advance of the chemotherapy. My advice to anyone who is on a similar life journey is to be the best that you can be for your family.
“Charis holds a special place for me. On my first visit, sitting outside I took a photo which captured the essence of this wonderful place. It’s now my Facebook profile photo,” said Frank.
What Charis Cancer Care Centre does for sufferers
The Charis Cancer Care centre in Co Tyrone has been a haven for many sufferers and their families for years and is totally free.
It offers total relaxation and therapy.
Imelda McGucken, Director of Charis Cancer Centre explains: “For anyone who may not be familiar with Charis Cancer Care or what we provide, the charity was established to support people who are affected by cancer, their family members and families who have been bereaved through cancer.
“Charis can broaden the services offered to patients coping with diagnosis, detection and treatment. The programme has been designed to complement rather than replace orthodox cancer treatments with the aim of providing physical, psychological and emotional support through the relief of symptoms.”
Charis Cancer Care works with clinical treatments for cancer. Comfortable treatment rooms are designed to delivery of complementary therapies by trained practitioners. Support ranges from counselling services and dietary advice, right through to offering treatments such as reflexology and massage.
Imelda said: “Over 5,900 people have accessed Charis’ services to date. On average, the centre welcomes in excess of 27 new users per week and with the extension in place that number is likely to double. Highly trained therapists and tutors work with the person as a whole, ensuring they benefit from advice and treatments which are free of charge.”
Charis Cancer Care Board Trustee Jarlath Conway adds: “The new facility will provide two new treatment rooms for the delivery of complementary therapies by trained practitioners, one counselling room, one beauty therapy room, one rest room and additional office space. We are delighted with the vision for the new centre and the difference it will make for the people who will avail of the services there.”
“Charis does not receive government funding and relies exclusively on the support from the local community and businesses to raise funds. The annual running costs for the centre are currently in the region of £300,000. I can’t thank all our current donors enough.
Should you wish to make a donation to Charis to support cancer patients, their families and those bereaved with cancer, please contact Director of Fundraising Veronica Morris on M: 07738 492541, T: 028 8676 9217 or E. firstname.lastname@example.org . All donations go straight to the charity.