Run for Annie
ARMAGH woman Grainne O'Neill, who lost her mother Anne to pancreatic cancer, is putting her studies in events management to good use in raising awareness and money for a charity fund set up in her mum's memory. Fight on for Annie was established to raise money for both Pancreatic Cancer UK & Pancreatic Cancer Action UK. Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in Britain and Northern Ireland, with around 8,800 people diagnosed each year. Cancer of the pancreas is difficult to treat. It rarely causes any symptoms in the early stages, so it's often not detected until the cancer is fairly advanced. Only 3 per cent of pancreatic cancer patients survive the disease for five years or more. Twenty-two year old Grainne is a final-year leisure and events management student at the University of Ulster, Coleraine, and today her classmates will be running the charity's latest event - The Purple Run, sponsored by Energie Fitness Coleraine. The 5k run around the campus is designed to be a fun and relaxed event and participants can run or walk. It will be followed by a participant thank-you party at the Student's Union, complete with light refreshments and spot prizes.
Fight on for Annie was launched in October 2014 and has already raised over £10,000. "I initially started fundraising for one of the charities when mummy was sick and told her I would start this up in her name," explains Grainne, whose mum died in January 2004, having been diagnosed the previous summer. "Mum's illness started when she had a kidney infection and blood in her urine. Antibiotics helped initially, but the pain was persistent and increased and more and more tests revealed the cancer. Often with pancreatic cancer you think it's something minor but it can be terminal. We are trying to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer locally, because it's a hard cancer to diagnose."
While pancreatic cancer doesn't usually give rise to early signs, some common symptoms include persistent lower back pain, jaundice, weight loss, late onset type 2 diabetes and bowel problems.
Among those supporting Fight on for Annie is 50 Shades of Grey actor Jamie Doran, whose own mother died from pancreatic cancer when he was just 16. "Through friends we got our purple wrist bands to Jamie and his dad. He's really helped us with awareness and through social media we are receiving responses from all over the world," says Grainne.
* The Purple Run 2015 takes place at the Ulster University Coleraine Campus today at 1pm. Registration is £6. For further information visit facebook.com/ Fightforannie or pancreaticcancer.org.uk.