Breast cancer survivor Madeleine McCoole signs up for 100km in 30 days challenge

Nicole Glennon, Irish Examiner, April 12th 2021

When Madeleine McCoole first discovered a lump on her right breast in the shower, she didn’t think much of it. “I have two young kids, I was working full time,” she said, by way of explanation. “I did ignore it for a couple of weeks.”

But when, a few weeks later, she ended up in her doctors with her son for another reason, she decided to mention it. Three weeks later, she was diagnosed with a grade 3 tumour. “My oncologist referred to it as a nasty … but I was very lucky because I caught it at stage one. If I had ignored that for any longer … my diagnosis probably would have been very different.” 

Like many breast cancer survivors, the mother of two from Carrigaline, Co Cork, has been inspired to share her story in the hopes of raising awareness and ensuring more people get a ‘good prognosis’, as she did. That, and her belief that research is ensuring more people not only survive breast cancer, but thrive, is what made her sign up to be an ambassador for this year’s 100km in 30 Days challenge for Breast Cancer Ireland.

The challenge was organised last year by Louth couple Niall Carroll and Cara McAdam, following Ms McAdam’s breast cancer diagnosis in 2019. It was a resounding success, raising over €1.2m, with participants in more than 34 countries. This year, the virtual event is hoping to reach 20,000 participants who can stroll, walk, jog or run the 100km during the month of June.

Proceeds will go towards the establishment of a state-of-the-art clinical trials centre, to be housed in the new Breast Cancer Research Centre, being built on the grounds of Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, along with funding specialist breast cancer research nurses in the designated cancer centres all across Ireland. Funds raised will also support the Breast Cancer Ireland education and outreach programmes delivered nationally to schools, companies, and community groups.

For Ms McCoole, it is a cause dear to her heart, as she knows how important funding for research and awareness programmes is. “It was never as bad as I feared. I know everyone’s story is different and everyone’s treatment is different, but it is so treatable and I suppose that’s the reason why funding for ongoing research is so important. It’s those improvements that are changing it from ‘oh my god I’ve got breast cancer, am I going to die?’ to ‘I’ve got breast cancer but it’s survivable.”

She also saw the role research has in treating cancer and preventing its reoccurrence. “At the start, it wasn’t clear whether I’d need chemotherapy or not and they did an Oncotype DX test, which is a genetic test to determine the likelihood of cancer returning or not,” she explained. “Even just around the time that we were waiting on results of that, new research came out in relation to how effective chemo was, depending on whether you came out, low, medium or high on that test, and that fed into the treatment that I got. I came out high which meant that I had a high chance of my cancer returning.”

“A few years ago my treatment probably would have been my surgery and radiotherapy but there probably would have been a very high chance of it returning, whereas now because of this research, they know that chemotherapy can actually help prevent it returning. So I went through chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy. If I had ignored that for any longer…my diagnosis probably would have been very different.” 

Ms McCoole said there is a fear at the moment that Covid-19 might prevent people from visiting their doctor, and that people will end up with a more progressed cancer prognosis as a result. Her message is simple: Don’t delay. “If there’s anything unusual at all, not even a lump, if there’s anything that you’re uncertain about, don’t feel silly about getting checked or feel like ‘oh sure, it’s probably nothing I don’t want to be wasting their time’ … nobody will ever think that, just go get it checked.”

“For people that are going through it, I think you will realise that you’re braver than you might give yourself credit for … you will look back and go, ‘wow I did that’.”

Registrations for the event will open at this Thursday, April 15th.

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