Cancer patient Julie Lillis, from Whiteabbey, cycled 300k to raise much-needed cash for Cancer Focus NI

Julie’s 300km cycle for breast cancer

Breast cancer patient Julie Lillis has done a wheely fabulous job of raising a magnificent £10,460 for cancer charities by completing an exhausting 300km cycle.

Julie (37) successfully cycled to all five breast screening centres in Northern Ireland over two days despite a sore knee and battling against Storm Aidan at the end of October, breast cancer awareness month.

She originally hoped to raise £5k but amazingly doubled that target in no time at all. She is generously giving £5k to Cancer Focus Northern Ireland to help fund a unique new support group for younger women with breast cancer and for the charity’s research into the mutant BRCA gene at Queen’s University. She will donate the rest to other charities that help her on her cancer journey. 

“I know that Cancer Focus NI does a lot of great work in the community and I want to help them keep on doing that,” she said.

Julie, who is from Whiteabbey but is living with her mum Jean in Larne at the moment, was naturally devastated when she was diagnosed last August after finding a lump. The day before her cycle she was given the overwhelming news that the cancer had spread and was incurable.

But, in indomitable spirit, the TV production manager is staying positive and is determined to make the best of a bad situation. “I just wanted to do something to help raise awareness and the cycle was just the thing,” she said.

Telling her story to help promote awareness of breast cancer, Julie explained: “Because I was tested when I was 16 and found out I have the inherited BRCA 1 mutant gene, I have been getting MRI scans every year from the age of 23. When I felt a lump last August I didn’t think it would be anything too serious as I’d had a scan the year before and I didn’t think cancer would grow that quickly.”

Julie’s mum and two of her five siblings also have the rogue BRCA gene which greatly increases the chance of getting breast and ovarian cancer.

“The day before I was due to start my charity cycle, I was given unimaginable news that the cancer had spread and wasn’t curable. My mum said she’d never seen someone’s colour drain from their face so quickly. I wasn’t expecting it at all, it floored me, but I wanted to carry on with my cycle challenge and seeing everyone being so supportive helped keep me going. I am beyond grateful to everyone for all the kindness and generosity, it means a lot!”

Julie continued: “My sister, who also has the gene, had a double mastectomy and her ovaries removed. I chose to go down the preventative annual MRI route and wait until I had children before having surgery to reduce my risk, but cancer had other plans and beat me to it. When I got the news I was teary for the first two weeks but I’m holding up ok now,

“I’ve seen my mum go through cancer twice and her sisters have had it - that gives me the determination to take it on.” 

She added: “Thank you everyone so much for all the messages, donations and support. I would never have thought that within two weeks of making my GoFundMe page that it would not only hit the target but go on to double the amount. I got an amazing £4k raised by the start of the first day on the cycle, which is unbelievable.

“Now onto the next challenge defying all the odds, staying positive and getting this cancer to shrink to non-existence! - ... I want to stay here as long as I can.”

Rosie Forsythe, community fundraising manager, Cancer Focus NI, said: “We are absolutely in awe of Julie, her generosity and positive outlook. We’re thrilled to receive such a large donation and can’t thank Julie and all those who supported her enough. This donation will help us continue supporting local cancer patients and their families. Thank you!”

Anyone who would like to create their own fundraiser for Cancer Focus NI can email [email protected] or check out www.cancerfocusni.org/events for ideas.

If you have any concerns about cancer please call the free Cancer Focus NI support and advice Nurse Line on 0800 783 3339 on Mondays and Fridays, 9am to 1pm, or email [email protected].

Last updated 1 month 2 weeks ago