Survivor Susan raises thousands for Cancer Focus

Survivor Susan raises thousands for Cancer Focus

9 September 2020

A DOWNPATRICK woman who survived breast cancer is midway through a 100-mile solo walk in Scotland to raise funds for a leading cancer charity.

Susan Morgan (50) — who is a lecturer at Ulster University — had already raised £3,000 for Cancer Focus NI before she headed across the Irish Sea to walk along the West Highland Way.

And she is also backing the cancer charity’s ‘support your girls’ campaign to highlight the signs and symptoms of the disease and how to check yourself with Susan encouraging people to hold a ‘girls’ night in’ to raise money for a new support service for younger women with breast cancer.  

The lecturer reveals that she had planned to visit New Orleans to celebrate her 50th birthday but the coronavirus pandemic put paid to that.

However, given that walking was Susan’s favourite form of exercise, she wanted to do something to prove that she was fit and healthy again.

Married to Seamus Fitzsimons and mum to Aine (18) and Rory (15), Susan was diagnosed a year ago with two tumours in her left breast, one four centimetres and the other 1.4cm. 

She had a mastectomy and her lymph nodes removed before six rounds of chemotherapy in December and 15 rounds of radiotherapy and is now on hormone therapy.

Susan continued: “I had noticed a change in the shape of my breast. It slightly dented in and was noticeable when I sat in a particular way. I thought it was probably one of the changes that happens during menopause.

“There had been no signs in terms of feeling unwell or anything else to indicate that there was something wrong.

“It is very easy to dismiss the signs and not take immediate action and it did take me a few months to go to the doctor. I don’t know if it would have made a difference if I’d gone earlier, but the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes.”

Susan explained that when she did go to her GP, he very promptly sent her to a breast clinic where, within two hours, staff informed her that she had cancer.

“It was a massive shock, as it is for every woman,” Susan recalled.

“I had a heart attack in January 2017, a bleed in the heart which clotted and I thought ‘no’ this can’t be happening too. I considered myself a healthy person and this was just awful.”

Susan had been attending the cancer charity’s art therapy group and had just started an art journal when Covid happened. 

“Obviously everything stopped at that point but I had picked up enough of the skills and continued on myself during lockdown,” said Susan, revealing that she has a lovely journal as a result.

“I used art throughout the rest of my chemo and radiotherapy; it was really good for me. I had never done anything like that immersive type of activity before.

“It was a brilliant way of zoning out, escaping for a while,and it was a way of relaxing from all the tension. I have also used the Cancer Focus NI bra-fitting service which is brilliant.”

Susan said that one in two people in Northern Ireland get cancer and it is still a subject that many are uncomfortable talking about.

“We need to get the message out that we must all be vigilant,” she said, revealing that she recently celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary and realises how lucky she is to have reached that landmark.

“I was originally planning to go to New Orleans for my 50th birthday but Covid put an end to that. Walking has always been my favourite form of exercise and I wanted to do something to prove to myself that I am fit and healthy again and decided to walk 100 miles, starting along the West Highland Way to raise money for Cancer Focus NI instead to support all their wonderful work.”

And the Downpatrick woman is also encouraging women and girls everywhere to hold a girls’ night in to raise funds for the new service for younger women with breast cancer.

Anyone interested in having a girls’ night in to help raise funds for local breast cancer support is asked to visit