Campaigners raise funds and awareness with charity walk
Dozens of families had a spring in their step during a very special walk on Saturday — all in aid of the Cancer Fund for Children.
Youngsters battling the disease also took part in The Mile in My Shoes event, all donning their favourite footwear for the walk through Antrim Castle Gardens.
One mother and daughter told Sunday Life how it gave them a much-needed boost.
Dorota Okon and her 15-year-old daughter Julia were diagnosed with cancer just two years apart.
“She [Julia] wore walking boots because she said she would walk the mile pushing her wheelchair instead of sitting in it,’’ said Dorota.
“Julia is one of the children who organised the event. They worked all year to prepare.
“They are all from different backgrounds — some have siblings with cancer, some of them have a parent and some of them have been diagnosed with cancer like Julia — so they all have a different experience.
“When she is with them she feels like she doesn’t need to explain anything. She can be herself and she is not embarrassed if she is acting differently and it’s like she belongs there.”
Mother Dorota wore her husband’s shoes.
“It’s really nice to have that space to release those emotions,’’ she said.
“The weather was amazing and when the sun is shining it is like everything is perfect and we really enjoyed it.”
The mother and daughter are originally from Poland but now call Northern Ireland home.
Julia was only seven when she found out she had a brain tumour, then her mother was told she had bowel cancer.
Dorota is cancer-free at the moment, but she has been told it may come back, while Julia is on a trial drug.
“She finished treatment at the end of September, but over Christmas she wasn’t well and we found her tumour had started to grow again. It’s quite a tough situation at the moment,” said Dorota.
“It’s really hard not being able to do the things a teenager should do.
“To be honest, I would prefer that the cancer would be somewhere else.
“Having a brain tumour is like seeing your child change every day. It’s like every day something different is taken away from her.”
There was lots of praise for this courageous mother and daughter.
“I’m so proud of all the work they’ve done with the support of our team,” said Laura O’Hare, from the Cancer Fund for Children.
“To have created a full campaign, having only got involved in the youth advisory group nine months ago, with no prior experience of campaigns or organising events and only being able to meet three times in person during this time while dealing with the impact of cancer is incredible.”