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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

International storyteller Liz Weir’s plea to give hope to others with cancer



International storyteller Liz Weir is backing a new Cancer Research UK campaign to help give hope to future generations.


Liz, who hails from the Ballymena, has written 27 books and received an MBE for her services to the arts and education in Northern Ireland. She’s dedicated her life to establishing story-telling groups for children and adults all over Ireland and 15 of her books are regularly used in schools to help with thinking and literacy skills.



She is also story-teller in residence for Northern Ireland libraries.


Now, to help others, Liz is sharing for the first time her own story of being diagnosed with a rare cancer during lockdown.


With around 9,800 people diagnosed with cancer every year in Northern Ireland, Liz hopes to inspire people to play a part in the fight against the disease. And her message is clear- to save lives tomorrow, Cancer Research UK needs support today.



Liz, 72, who now lives in the Glens of Antrim said:


“Research into better treatments has given me more precious time with my daughter Claire.


“It has allowed me to see another birthday, another Christmas and to get back out telling stories.


“I know I wouldn’t be here without the dedication of scientists who are relentlessly striving towards new discoveries and milestones month after month. This vital work needs our support.



“One in two people are now affected by cancer; everyone knows someone and every family must have somebody at this stage.


“I know times are tough but if people can give whatever they can afford it means that research can continue to bring even more treatments and cures and save more lives.”


On May 24, 2021, mum of one Liz was diagnosed with nasal melanoma, a nasal sinus cancer that starts in the lining of the space behind the nose or in the small air filled spaces within the bones close to the naval cavity. She was diagnosed with this rare form of cancer following tests including a CT scan and a biopsy at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Liz was referred to the Cancer Centre in Belfast City Hospital where she underwent surgery to remove the tumour.



She was then given Ipilimumab and Nivolumab, types of cancer treatment called immunotherapy. The treatment works by blocking proteins that stop the immune system from working properly and attacking cancer cells. The drugs help to make the immune system find and kill cancer cells.



Liz said:


“From the moment I stepped through the doors of the Cancer Centre I felt safe.


“The tumour was quite close to my eyes and brain so they couldn’t remove all of it and I had to have immunotherapy treatment.


“I was supposed to have four treatments but I reacted badly to the first one and spent 12 days in hospital recovering.


“It scared the life out of me and that was the only point I thought I was going to die.



“I could barely walk and was really weak and hadn’t eaten for three days. I did think at one stage ‘why me?’, but then one in two of us will get cancer now, so I realised that I’m that one.”


Liz was fitted for a radiotherapy mask, designed to keep her body as still as possible so radiotherapy treatment could be as accurate as possible. Her talent for storytelling helped to keep her calm during five sessions of radiotherapy in total.


Liz said:


“I looked at the masks online and they were scary but I just told myself stories to get me through for whatever number of minutes I was there.”


Liz has had regular scans to ensure that the tumour isn’t growing back and her most recent results just this month confirmed the good news that it is in fact continuing to shrink.


Relieved that the treatment is working, she’s resumed hosting and taking part in workshops for people involved in the arts as well as running a hostel in her home town of Cushendall called Ballyeamon. Now back to storytelling and doing what she loves most, she feels so grateful to be alive that she is doing what she can to give back.



She has joined the NI Cancer Research Consumer Forum providing valuable insights for the development of future treatments.

And she is delighted to team up with Cancer Research UK to urge people across Northern Ireland to give regularly to the charity to help fund long term research projects that could drive new breakthroughs.


Life-saving cancer treatments are made by months and months of trialling, testing and learning. But monthly progress in research needs monthly donations.


Cancer Research UK scientists carried out research that could make immunotherapies more effective in the future. The cells in the human body are covered in small molecules called antigens. Different cells have different antigens and cancer cells have specific antigens that the immune system looks for to work out if a cell is cancerous or not.


The charity’s scientists shed light on how the immune system recognises the antigens on cancer cells, and the tricks that cancer can use to escape detection.


This could help scientists develop better ways to use immunotherapies and understand why these treatments don’t work for all cancers.

Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Cancer Research UK was able to spend over £2 million in Belfast on some of the country’s leading scientific and clinical research.


Research happening right now in Belfast includes looking for new ways to treat breast cancer and improving treatment for bowel cancer.


While 2022 marks the charity’s 20th anniversary, its history dates back to the founding of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in 1902. During this time, its work has led to more than 50 cancer drugs used across the UK - and around the world - from widely used chemotherapies to new-generation precision treatments.


In fact, drugs linked to the charity are used to treat more than 125,000 patients in the UK every year – that’s 3 out of every 4 patients who receive cancer drugs on the NHS.


Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the Northern Ireland, Jean Walsh, said:


“One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime, but all of us can help beat it. As we mark our 20th anniversary, we’re reflecting on how far we’ve come thanks to supporters like Liz.


“From proving the link between smoking and cancer to laying the foundations for modern radiotherapy, our scientists have been at the forefront of cancer research for 120 years. And we’re not stopping now.


“Monthly donations make a huge difference to advances such as this, because they allow us to plan for the future - and the more we can plan, the more projects we can fund to unlock more of cancer’s secrets. So we hope people will give regularly to the charity, if they can.


“We’re working towards a world where we can all live longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer. Beating the disease is a long game, but it’s one that – together - we will win.”


Donate monthly to Cancer Research UK at cruk.org/donate

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