Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: We wish Ritchie well in her cancer battle

Editor's Viewpoint

Many people will have been shocked and saddened to hear that former SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie has breast cancer.

In a long political career she won many admirers for her dedication to her South Down constituency, first as a councillor and later as an MLA and MP.

However, last year she found it impossible to swim against the tide of toxic polarisation that has left the province in its current state of political paralysis and lost her seat to Sinn Fein. The republican party and the DUP captured the other two SDLP seats.

But, as she says, a political defeat which undoubtedly deeply hurt her last year fades into virtual insignificance compared to the devastating diagnosis she received in February this year.

A routine mammogram detected her cancer and she had a mastectomy in March and is now halfway through a six cycle course of chemotherapy, to be followed by radiotherapy.

Her long-honed instincts to advise and inform led her to tell other woman to ensure they too go for routine scans which can lead to early detection of cancer. In her case she has been advised that her cancer is treatable.

That is good news amid a traumatic time for her.

It is easy for everyone, but especially women who often have to juggle work and home life, to forget to take time for themselves and keep a regular check on their health.

As Ms Ritchie pointed out in her interview, she is now engaged in the most important battle of her life, one that affects her immediate and long-term health.

She deserves great credit for thinking of others at this time. She praises those who have supported her during this health crisis and reminds us that a cancer diagnosis does not just affect the patient, but also all those who care about him or her.

And she also acknowledged the sterling work of staff at Belfast Cancer Centre and Bridgewater Suite.

Anyone who has attended it will know that the oncologists and therapists are working at full throttle as the incidence of the disease increases, in part due to early diagnosis, as in her case.

Importantly, Ms Ritchie has maintained a positive frame of mind and that will help her during her treatment.

She hopes to get back to work when the treatment is completed.

Everyone will echo that hope.

Belfast Telegraph

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