A Lisburn woman diagnosed with thyroid cancer has paid tribute to a friend who took on a 67km challenge to raise awareness of the disease.
Local mum Karen Gribbon has been determined since diagnosis of the rare illness - affecting the thyroid gland at the front of the neck - to warn others of signs and symptoms that can be vague at first due to the cancer’s slow growth rate.
Taking up her cause was Crumlin man and personal friend Dominic O’Hare, who completed the Gael Force West challenge - inlcluding running, cycling and kayaking alost 42 miles across Counties Galway and Sligo - to raise £1,082 for Cancer Focus Northern Ireland.
“I am thrilled,” said Karen, “that Dominic has completed this really difficult course to help raise awareness of this particular type of cancer.
“I’d never heard of it myself until I was diagnosed and now I want to alert everyone to it.”
The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a painless lump or swelling that develops in the neck and gradually gets bigger.
Other symptoms only tend to occur after the condition has reached an advanced stage and may include unexplained hoarseness or changes to the voice, difficulty breathing and swallowing and neck pain.
Karen, who is married to Conor and has three young daughters, was diagnosed in March 2012. After surgery to remove the lump, she underwent radioactive iodine therapy and still regularly attends hospital for check-ups.
Now she is urging everyone to feel their necks for lumps when they are doing their regular checks for other signs of cancer.
She and Dominic both won the praise of Cancer Focus NI for efforts to highlight the disease, not least during Thyroid Cancer Awareness month in September.
“We are grateful to Karen for all her hard work highlighting thyroid cancer and really appreciate Dominic’s commitment and support,” said Cancer Focus NI fundraiser Jillian Wallace.
“We’d also like to thank everyone who donated so generously. The money will be used to provide care services for local people with cancer, and their families.”
Most thyroid swellings (or goitres) are non-cancerous but anyone who notices a lump in their neck or any of the aformentioned symptoms is advised to see their doctor as soon as possible.
More detailed information on thyroid cancer can be found at www.cancer.ie and www.nhs.uk. If you are concerned about cancer you can call the Cancer Focus NI free helpline on 0800 783 3339.
If you’d like to get in touch with Karen, contact her on her blog www.raisingmightygirls.blogspot.co.uk.