Patient Advocate in Focus - Niamh Fortune
Niamh Fortune is one of our inspiring patient advocates. Niamh is a member our Irish Cancer Society Public & Patient Involvement Panel, helping us review our research calls and aiding in the decision on what research we should fund.
"My name is Niamh Fortune. I am 34-years-old and I am a cancer survivor. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would someday be writing that sentence but here I am.
"Thursday, April 27 2017 was a date that changed my life forever. I was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma at 31 years of age. Immediately plans were put in place to start my treatment as it was a very aggressive tumour and no time could be wasted. And that’s where this journey began.
"I went through my treatment with all the gusto I had inside of me, and then some. I was adamant that I was going to come through chemo and radiation treatment unscathed and go back to living my young, carefree life once I got the all clear.
"But that was not the path that my life took. I underestimated how much of an impact this diagnosis would have on my mental health and it wasn’t until after treatment finished that I started to see the cracks that were appearing internally. It took me a while but I managed to take the necessary steps to get the help that I needed to work though and identify what these feelings and emotions were, and how best to handle them."
I learned a lot about myself and about other people's cancer journeys and it led me to the realisation that I just wanted to use this experience to help. I didn’t know how, I didn’t know who, but I knew I just wanted to be of some help and try to use this negative, frightening period in my life and turn it into something positive I can be proud of.
"Along with a blog I started writing to show how the aftermath of cancer can be as tough to navigate as the physical treatment is (Me After C), I also wanted to get involved in my local cancer support centre and help out there as much as I could.
"It was through the team in Greystones Cancer Support that I was able to connect with the team in the Irish Cancer Society office and become a member of their PPI Panel. Being an advocate for the public and patients who are touched by this disease is something that I was so eager to be involved in. What better way to help and make a difference than getting to be a factor in decision making from the ground up.
"Being involved in this Research Grant Approval process has been an honour and it is something that over the last two years I have been delighted to work on. Seeing the grant applications and the ideas that are being put forward to help with all areas of cancer screening and prevention and rehabilitation is something I never thought I would be a part of.
"If you had asked me four years ago where my life would be today, I probably would have said, 'Working in Sales, climbing the corporate ladder' but I can safely say that I am happier today with the path I am on. This month I am embarking on a new adventure, a four-year degree course in Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy, something I have been interested in for a long time but would not have had the courage to take the leap and apply for, had it not been for all I have gone through over the last three years."
I feel my involvement with the Irish Cancer Society as a member of the PPI Panel plays such a complimentary role in what is to come for me and I am looking forward to continuing my great relationship with the team at the Irish Cancer Society and getting involved where I can and working towards a bigger brighter future.
The Irish Cancer Society is committed to putting patients, families, survivors, supporters and the public at the very heart of what we do. In keeping with this commitment, we are working to embed Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) in our research processes.
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