| 7.4°C Belfast

'Inspirational' Aundrea Bannatyne in best pal's heart as Belfast hosts hospice drive


Aundrea Bannatyne died in 2017 a year after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer

Aundrea Bannatyne died in 2017 a year after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer

Aundrea Bannatyne died in 2017 a year after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer

A Belfast woman has spoken of how her life "changed forever" when she lost her best friend to cancer.

Claire Barnes (44) was the first person to add her message of tribute when Marie Curie's seven-foot-tall daffodil visited CastleCourt in the city last Friday as part of a nationwide tour to mark their annual Great Daffodil Appeal.

Encouraging the public to write heartfelt words to someone they know who has been affected or lost their life to cancer, for Claire there was only one person her message could address - her best friend of 17 years Aundrea Bannatyne, who passed away from pancreatic cancer on August 16, 2017.

The 42-year-old from Dundonald, who was mum to boys Jack (18) and James (14), had been diagnosed with the condition just a year before in July 2016. Exactly a year later she was admitted to the Marie Curie Hospice during what would be the final few weeks of her life.

Three years later best friend Claire explains she still thinks about Aundrea each and every day, with the memory of the inspirational woman fuelling her in keeping her legacy alive and continuing to fundraise for the charity.

"We were friends for 17 years. We met through a friend. I went with her to Aundrea's hen night and we just clicked, despite being like chalk and cheese," said Claire.

"In those years of friendship we never had a cross word. Aundrea was full of life and she just had the biggest heart. She was my best friend and I always describe her as my person.

"It is a huge gap in all our lives from when we lost her in 2017."

When Aundrea received her diagnosis in 2016 the news was grave, with doctors telling the mum-of-two that it was just a matter of time for her.

"We travelled together to Germany to get her treatment, but while there the advice at the time was to go home and make memories," added Claire.

"Aundrea wasn't going to accept her prognosis. She had gone through the cancer battle before with her son James, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of two. He is 14 now and doing really well.

"For her to be given this news now, it was just the case that she had to fight it. Unfortunately, the cancer spread.

"When she was admitted to Marie Curie I was on holiday at the time. Despite what had happened it was all so unexpected and sort of happened quite quickly.

"I came home from holiday and we expected her to be in the hospice for 12 weeks. In the end it was only around four."

She added: "Not all our memories of that time are sad. She put her face on, put a smile on and gave it her all."

Despite the years passing, for Claire the grief remains as strong as ever for her missing friend. Instead, she is determined to channel all her effort into carrying on her legacy through fundraising for Marie Curie.

"There is no amount of fundraising I could do to give back to Marie Curie. What they did for Aundrea, it was care on another level. You could not put a price on the care not only Aundrea but her friends and family were given," said Claire.

For more information about the Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal tour around the UK, or to donate, visit mariecurie.org.uk/greatbigdaffodil

Belfast Telegraph