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Charity run Meet three women ready to lace up for Breast Cancer Ireland's 100k in 30 Days challenge

"The 100k in 30 Days challenge makes you realise how many people are behind you every step of the way"

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PRETTY IN PINK: Breast cancer warriors Madeleine McCoole, Lisa McElwaine and Fiona Morgan-Coleman

PRETTY IN PINK: Breast cancer warriors Madeleine McCoole, Lisa McElwaine and Fiona Morgan-Coleman

PRETTY IN PINK: Breast cancer warriors Madeleine McCoole, Lisa McElwaine and Fiona Morgan-Coleman

When Lisa McElwaine found a small but distinct lump in her breast one November morning, it was the heart-stopping moment every woman dreads.

The mum-of-three from Dublin was casually checking herself in the shower, as every health-conscious woman does, when the almond-sized bump stopped her in her tracks.

"It's every girl's worst nightmare finding that lump in the shower," she says. "It felt like an almond - it was hard and didn't move.

"The lump was beside my nipple and never changed from the day I found it in November 2019. But it wasn't until I spotted a tiny bit of blood in my bra from my nipple in early January 2020 that I did anything about it."

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HAPPY FAMILY: Fiona Morgan-Coleman with sons Callum and Pearse

HAPPY FAMILY: Fiona Morgan-Coleman with sons Callum and Pearse

HAPPY FAMILY: Fiona Morgan-Coleman with sons Callum and Pearse

On what should have been a day of celebration, just weeks later, the 47 year-old from Rathfarnham in Dublin was instead left grappling with the news that she had breast cancer.

"I was diagnosed with stage 2, grade 3 breast cancer on my husband Clyde's birthday," Lisa says. "It was the hardest news ever to be told. I was speechless and numb.

"I had so many questions, yet I couldn't swallow, never mind speak.

"All I was thinking was how are we going to tell our three children, Seán (21), Conor (18) and Ella (13). We were beyond devastated."

Determined, Lisa underwent a lumpectomy, six rounds of chemotherapy and a gruelling 20 rounds of radiation in a bid to defy the disease that will affect one in nine Irish women in their lifetime.

Even on the toughest days, however, the breast cancer warrior put her best face forward.

"During treatment my motto was, 'Look good, feel good'," she says. "I made the most of all my good days and made a huge effort to feel like me. I'd style my wig in rollers and put on make-up and get dressed up even for coffee and a stroll.

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"On my worst days, I would listen to my body and take the time for myself.

"My bed was my safe place. I would rest, shut the world out, watch Netflix, play simple games on my phone like adult colouring - anything that didn't take much concentration as my body and mind were exhausted.

"And I simply waited for the good days to return."

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Lisa with her daughter Ella

Lisa with her daughter Ella

Lisa with her daughter Ella

Breast Cancer Ireland ambassador Lisa is currently awaiting a double mastectomy and reconstruction to give herself the best possible chance of a cancer-free future.

She also recently underwent a full hysterectomy after discovering she carries the BRCA2 gene, putting her at an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

But she can't wait to lace up for the charity's upcoming 100k in 30 Days challenge for the second time - and urged others to follow in her footsteps.

"The 100k in 30 Days challenge makes you realise how many people are behind you every step of the way on both your toughest days and your best days," explains Lisa, who works in accounts.

"I had an army of Pink Girls behind me last June and the craic was 90. I have no doubt I will have an even bigger pink army at my side this year.

"I am taking part because I realise the importance of the work behind the scenes in research, trials and support from Breast Cancer Ireland.

"Early detection is key for survival. It is so important to act sooner rather than later when you feel something is not right."

⬤ Register to walk, run or cycle at 100kin30days.ie and go to breastcancerireland.com for more information on breast cancer and breast cancer research

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Madeleine McCoole (45) with husband Adrian and sons, Alec (7) and Aaron (5)

Madeleine McCoole (45) with husband Adrian and sons, Alec (7) and Aaron (5)

Madeleine McCoole (45) with husband Adrian and sons, Alec (7) and Aaron (5)


Fiona Morgan-Coleman: 'Putting on make-up and dressing up got me through my worst moments'

Garda Fiona Morgan-Coleman (42) from Shrule, Co Mayo, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

"When I found a lump scratching my chest in bed one night, I never thought for a second there was anything wrong.

"My GP referred me for a mammogram which came back clear. Unfortunately, my biopsy didn't - it showed I had a 7cm tumour in my breast. I had to have a mastectomy, as well as an axillary clearance as it had spread to my lymph nodes, followed by eight sessions of chemo and 35 sessions of radiation.

"During my treatment, I set up an Instagram account (@fionamorgancoleman) to occupy my days.

"Putting on make-up and dressing up got me through my worst moments. The feedback was amazing and my following grew and became my army of support.

"Thankfully, the pandemic didn't affect my treatment too much. There's always the worry when most of your appointments are over the phone. If you need to see someone face to face though, they can work around that.

"I'm bursting with excitement over the 100k in 30 Days challenge. I'm planning to walk and attempt to jog it.

"Having my husband David and our two boys Callum (6) and Pearse (4) by my side all the way will be the best part."


Madeleine McCoole: 'I've learned that no matter how bad things are, there are always moments to enjoy'

Leadership coach Madeleine McCoole (45), lives in Carrigaline, Co Cork, with husband Adrian and sons, Alec (7) and Aaron (5), and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018.

"I randomly felt a lump in my right breast in the shower this time three years ago. At first, it wasn't very noticeable, so I put off going to the doctor for a couple of weeks.

"In that short space of time, it became a lot more noticeable, so I mentioned it to my doctor when I was at an appointment with my son.

"Two weeks later, I was referred for a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. Afterwards, the consultant said, 'Obviously we won't know anything until we get the results, but I am concerned'.

"That was the day, results or not, that I really knew I had cancer. My treatment was lumpectomy surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Since then, I have also been on hormone treatment to put me into a medically-induced menopause as oestrogen was helping my cancer grow.

"During my treatment, I created a blog called Beauty and the Cancer Beast (beautyandthecancerbeast.ie). Sharing my story and helping other women who contacted me through the blog really helped me through my own treatment journey.

"I've been buzzing since becoming an ambassador for 100k in 30 Days. Before my diagnosis, I took up running by doing a couch to 5km. After my treatment, I started from scratch and slowly built back up to 5km. Running has become a really important part of my self-care.

"Beating cancer has taught me that you can't control what life throws at you, but you can control how you deal with it. I've learned that no matter how bad things are, if you look for them, there are always moments to enjoy and be grateful for."

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