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Half of us will get cancer... we need to be prepared, says Jamie Dornan's dad as he fronts campaign against killer disease

By Victoria O'Hara

Actor Jamie Dornan's father has urged people to become 'Red Heroes' by backing a campaign to raise awareness of leukaemia.

Professor Jim Dornan was diagnosed with the potentially deadly blood cancer nine years ago but is in remission.

Now the renowned obstetrician and father of The Fall star has become the patron of Leukemia & Lymphoma NI to mark the group's 50th anniversary.

Since it was created, the charity has funded research into the causes of and possible cures for leukemia, lymphoma and other haematological cancers.

And it has now launched Blood Cancer Awareness Month, which shines a light on ongoing research into the condition, which three people here are diagnosed with every day.

Prof Dornan explained how he had developed chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 2005, when he was hugely busy at work.

"As well as being a full-time NHS consultant, I headed a busy research programme and was senior vice-president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists," he said.

"Just before my diagnosis, I felt completely exhausted as I had taken a lot on without giving anything up. I made the diagnosis of anaemia myself and immediately knew I had a form of leukemia.

"I am now nine years on and I am still in remission, although I prefer to think of it as cured. Being diagnosed with the disease has made me take stock and realise what is important in life."

Prof Dornan also told how getting involved with Leukemia & Lymphoma NI had been therapeutic, and of how he was determined to spread the word.

"It's vital to get the message out there that cancer is just another disease and that half of us are going to get it and live with it as a chronic disorder," he said.

"Research has enabled a large percentage of people to live with a manageable cancer rather than die with it, and it's vital that charities such as Leukemia & Lymphoma NI continue to fund scientists to research cures and treatments."

People can show their support for the campaign this month by wearing something red, taking a selfie and then posting it on Twitter or Facebook, using the hashtag #RedHero.

Last night, in support of the programme, Belfast City Hall, Queen's Students' Union and Victoria Square's iconic dome were all lit up in red.

Bill Pollock, chairman of Leukemia & Lymphoma NI, said it was vital his charity could keep doing its work.

He added: "As a local charity, we only raise money that supports research in Northern Ireland, with the aim of understanding how the disease develops and how to improve the outcome and quality of life for all of those affected."

Health Minister Edwin Poots commended the charity for its work in promoting awareness and research into leukemia during the past 50 years.

Background

Charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI has launched Blood Cancer Awareness Month. The charity supports scientists in the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at QUB Belfast City Hospital and more. Three people are diagnosed with a blood cancer here every day.

'Diagnosed after birth of daughter'

David Montgomery, from Portadown

My wife Victoria died in November 2012 after being diagnosed with leukaemia – just months after our daughter Rebecca's first birthday.

She had just had Rebecca but was feeling very tired. We didn't really think it was going to be anything serious.

But after a routine blood test, we were told she had AML – cancer of the bone marrow. We were in shock.

Victoria was treated in Belfast City Hospital, and she had four rounds of intensive induction chemotherapy. But the cancer was just too aggressive.

It was incredibly hard at times, but I feel that the work that Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI do in terms of research is very important. More needs to be done to combat this devastating cancer.

'Hospital's research saved my life'

Clarke Rice, from Coleraine

Looking back, I had symptoms that could have been mistaken for a virus. The flu-like feeling never broke, and I was finally diagnosed in January last year.

But then, five months after that, I relapsed. They found that I had a very rare form of leukaemia – chronic myeloid leukaemia – and discovered that, because I had a more serious form, I would have to have a bone marrow transplant.

I'm getting my strength back, but I'm still off work. I've had great support from my wife Alison, and the staff at Belfast City Hospital were great. The research carried out there saved my life. I'm staying positive and taking one day at a time.

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