Blood Cancer Awareness Month in Northern Ireland

We are painting Belfast red this month as we introduce Blood Cancer Awareness Month to Northern Ireland for the first time this September.    

On average, three people are diagnosed with a blood cancer in Northern Ireland every day.  Blood Cancer Awareness Month will highlight the disease and the important research being conducted to find the cause of and cure for leukaemia and lymphoma and other blood cancers.   

To mark the first ever Blood Cancer Awareness month in Northern Ireland, we have been supporting local research in the field for 50 years and we are pioneering a programme of awareness raising activities.

In support of the initiative, a number of local landmarks will be lit red tonight (Wednesday 10 September). In the Belfast city centre, Belfast City Hall, Queen’s Students’ Union and Victoria Square’s iconic dome will light up the sky red, whilst at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, The Great Hall, will also take on a red hue, thanks to support from Jim Wells MLA.

During the month of September, we are also calling on the public across Northern Ireland to help raise awareness by becoming a Red Hero. In three simple steps, people can support Blood Cancer Awareness Month: wear something red, take a selfie and post it on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #RedHero.  People are also being asked to support the lifesaving research conducted by Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI by texting SEPT14 £5 (or the amount they wish to donate) to 70070.

A host of well-known faces including Health Minister, Edwin Poots, MLAs and media personalities joined supporters of Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, leukaemia and blood cancer survivors and families of people affected by the disease to officially launch the first NI Blood Cancer Awareness Month at an event at the MAC, in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.

At the event, we announced our new Patron as Professor Jim Dornan – a leukaemia survivor; retired NHS consultant; Chair of Foetal Medicine at Queen’s University and author. 

We have also received the backing from a number of well-known, local faces that have agreed to become its ambassadors.  The new ambassadors include mentalist David Meade, Cool FM’s Gareth Stewart, UTV’s Naomi McMullan, Citybeat’s Stephen Clements, model agency boss, Alison Clarke, Olympic medallist, Wendy Houvenaghel, Ulster GAA’s Ryan Feeney, Fearghal McKinney MLA, Sean Rogers MLA, Judith Cochrane MLA and Claire Sugden MLA. 

Mr Bill Pollock, Chair of Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, said;

“Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI is celebrating its 50th anniversary and we felt this was a great opportunity for the charity to raise further awareness of blood cancers. 

“On average, three people are diagnosed with a blood cancer every day in Northern Ireland and the purpose of bringing Blood Cancer Awareness Month to the forefront is to increase public awareness and understanding of the disease.

“As a research charity, our aim is to ensure funding for scientific study is high on the Government’s policy agenda to ensure we can continue to expand vital research into the causes and cures of leukaemia, lymphoma and related conditions. 

“Our scientists are experts in their field and their research is internationally recognised. As a local charity, we only raise money that directly supports research in Northern Ireland, with the aim of understanding how the disease develops and how to improve the outcome and quality of life for all of those affected by a blood cancer. 

“We are also very proud to announce a number of new ambassadors and Professor Jim Dornan as our new charity patron.  Jim is well-known in the medical world and was a hugely successful obstetrician.  He has also suffered from leukaemia and we are delighted that he has agreed to come on board to support the charity.”  

Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI’s new patron, Professor Jim Dornan said;

“I developed Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia in 2005 when I was probably busiest work wise.  As well as being a full time NHS consultant, I headed a busy research programme and was Senior Vice President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. 

“Just before my diagnosis was made I felt completely exhausted as I had taken a lot on without giving anything up.  I made the diagnosis of anaemia myself and immediately knew I had a form of leukaemia.

“I am now nine years on and I am still in remission although I prefer to think of it as cured.  Being diagnosed with the disease has made me take stock and realise what is important in life. 

“I am a big supporter of research charities and especially Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI which conducts such vital work on blood cancers right here in Northern Ireland.  I am honoured to be asked to be the Patron of this great charity.  In many ways getting involved with Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI and being able to speak about my cancer is therapeutic.

“It is vital to get the message out there that cancer is just another disease and that half of us are going to get it and live with it as a chronic disorder.  Research has enabled a large percentage of people to live with a manageable cancer rather than die with it and it is hugely vital that charities such as Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI are able to continue to fund scientists to research potential cures and treatments.”

Health Minister Edwin Poots said:

“Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI is the only charity in Northern Ireland dedicated to fighting Leukaemia, Lymphoma, myeloma and other related conditions and they are to be commended for their work in promoting awareness of these diseases over the past fifty years.

“Outcomes for patients suffering from leukaemia and lymphoma can be poor, so it is vitally important that we do all that we can to raise public awareness and understanding of leukaemia and lymphoma, so that symptoms can be identified and treatment accessed as early as possible.

“I am committed to ensuring the HSC continues to work in partnership with organisations, such as Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI, to provide the best services possible. The Public Health Agency is currently developing a cancer awareness campaign and initiatives such as Blood Cancer Awareness Month can only help to increase our impact and ultimately improve outcomes for more patients.”

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