Festive fundraiser for cancer mum Aundrea Bannatyne
Hundreds took to the roads in their Christmas jumpers yesterday for a festive fundraiser to help pay for a determined Dundonald mother's pioneering cancer treatment.
Aundrea Bannatyne (42), a travel agent with Thomas Cook in Belfast, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July and told she had less than a year to live.
"I was told I should go home and make memories with my boys," she told the Belfast Telegraph in September.
But having resolved to beat her illness for her sons James (10) - who survived brain cancer himself at the age of two - and Jack (14), the family searched for treatments outside Northern Ireland.
A £100,000 operation in a London clinic offered hope at first. A social media campaign by 'Aundrea's Army' received massive support, with the money raised in just six weeks.
But disappointment followed when the London consultant told Aundrea the risk was too high to proceed with the operation. By chance, she heard of a pioneering treatment in a German clinic.
The bill was a staggering £200,000, but Aundrea's Army showed once again yesterday that they would not give up.
Aundrea's sons were among those taking part in the nine mile walk from Bangor's Pickie Park to Holywood.
Family friend Helen Stewart, who organised yesterday's event, estimated that at least £20,000 was raised. "Within 24 hours I had 95 people coming forward who said they wanted to do it. It just escalated then to 210 people," she said.
"It was absolutely brilliant. We had music and had so many lovely stories to tell each other about Aundrea. She's such an amazing girl."
Aundrea has so far undertaken two trips for treatment in Germany, one for three weeks and another week-long trip.
Before heading back in January, Helen said her friend is determined to enjoy Christmas at home.
"The treatment is difficult for her because she misses her boys," she said.
"Every time she gets knocked back, it's her sheer determination and her positivity that really astounds everybody."
With more fundraising events planned for the New Year, Helen said Aundrea's Army has no intention of slowing down.
"We're so determined. The sad reality is that if you can't pay for the treatment, you can't get it."
To support Aundrea Bannatyne's fight, donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/2gtranmq