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How Cancer Focus NI became our lifeline in lockdown


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Happier times: Joanne and Richard Irwin

Happier times: Joanne and Richard Irwin

Joanne and Richard with children (from left) Ben, Rachel and Scott

Joanne and Richard with children (from left) Ben, Rachel and Scott

Choral boost: Issy McManus

Choral boost: Issy McManus

Issy with her late husband Johnny and their daughter Nuala

Issy with her late husband Johnny and their daughter Nuala

Leigh Mallon with partner Fionn McGlinchey and their dog Rosie

Leigh Mallon with partner Fionn McGlinchey and their dog Rosie

Expert support: Leigh Mallon with her dog Poppy

Expert support: Leigh Mallon with her dog Poppy

Happier times: Joanne and Richard Irwin

As its funds have dipped to a ‘critically low’ level during lockdown, Cancer Focus NI has issued an urgent appeal for help. Here, Marie Foy finds out about some of the important work it’s been doing despite coronavirus restrictions.

'I just wanted to wrap the children in cotton wool'

Bangor dad Richard Irwin (50) lost his wife Joanne (48), a teacher at Grange Primary School, to cancer last November. The couple have three children, Scott (20), Ben (17) and Rachel (12). Richard says:

Joanne was diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct in the liver just over a year ago. She had been complaining of a dry mouth for a couple of weeks but didn't think a huge amount about it. She went to the doctor and had some blood tests. She got a call the next morning to go to A&E which rang alarm bells. She was taken into hospital over the weekend and had more tests and was told she had one of the more rare types of cancer. It came absolutely out of the blue.