Cork student: I had breast cancer, at 21, now I'm doing 100K walk    

A Cork student is undertaking the ‘100K in 30 days’ challenge in aid of Breast Cancer Ireland - having been diagnosed with breast cancer aged just 21, writes CHRIS DUNNE
Cork student: I had breast cancer, at 21, now I'm doing 100K walk    

Lauren Barrett, UCC student.Picture Denis Minihane.

CANCER touched Lauren Barrett’s life early.

“It all started six years ago, when my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” says Lauren, who is from Tralee and is a 4th year student in UCC studying neuro-science.

“I was 16 at the time. Fortunately, it was caught early and mum’s treatment was a success,” says Lauren.

“She had preventative surgery and all was well. She had a genetic mutation of the BRCA1 that links ovarian cancer to breast cancer.

“In January, 2021, I decided to get the genetic test done, as there’s a 50-50 of inheriting the gene from your parents. I was put on a waiting list for six months.”

Lauren was in for a shock when she found a lump in her breast in the meantime.

“I was in the shower and I found a lump,” she says. “That was in April. I went to my GP and there were a few delays with Covid and the HSE cyber-attack.

Lauren Barrett. Picture Denis Minihane.
Lauren Barrett. Picture Denis Minihane.

“When I went for biopsies and scans in CUH, it was confirmed I had breast cancer. I had triple negative breast cancer. It was a big shock as I was so young; only 21.”

Lauren also discovered she had the genetic mutation of the BRCA1 when the test results came back.

“My treatment plan was more aggressive as a result,” she says.

“I had five months of chemotherapy and surgery, a bi-lateral mastectomy, in January, 2022, to reduce the risk of re-occurrence

Lauren Barrett, at UCC.
Lauren Barrett, at UCC.

.

“In March, I had 15 sessions of radiation and I took a year out of college. I had three years of college done then.”

A LIFE TURNED UPSIDE DOWN

Lauren’s carefree college life was halted temporarily.

“It was a lot to deal with at 21,” says Lauren, who has a younger brother and an older brother.

“I’m not sure if it would be any easier if I was older.”

Lauren battled the storm and fortunately she was able to continue college and go back to work part-time.

“I play Gaelic football and I was able to go back playing. I was lucky that the 10 months of treatment all worked out and I could continue life as normal again.”

Lauren Barrett. Picture Denis Minihane.
Lauren Barrett. Picture Denis Minihane.

GIVING BACK

Lauren is an ambassador for the 100k in 30 Days event to raise funds for breast cancer research.

Following the success of last year’s 100k in 30 Days event, which raised €1.7 million for Breast Cancer Ireland, organisers are calling on the people of Cork to join the (hashtag) pink army and take part in the June event. Registration is now open at www.100kin30days.ie

“Breast Cancer Ireland do great work,” says Lauren. “All the research they did aided my successful treatments. Young people can use the app to set reminders to check themselves and log on to breast aware tutorials.

“My age group aren’t scanned; I found the lump myself. Lots of my pals were unaware that you could be affected so young.”

Life is good now for Lauren.

“My life changed and I changed my mindset,” says Lauren.

She doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

“Little things don’t bother me. Health and happiness is what is all-important. I went through hardship for a year; I lost my hair, I had to take a year out of college.

“All my pals went back but not me. Covid was no help. I had to isolate in case I got Covid.”

Lauren is grateful that she made a full recovery.

“I am so lucky and so grateful that all the treatments worked and I am back to normal,” she says.

“It is not common for my age group to get breast cancer. If my mum hadn’t got sick, I wouldn’t have known about the genetic aspect.

“Self-checking for young people is important. It was a bad co-incidence that I found the lump myself and was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 4, 2021.

“I had re-construction done in the one surgery and it was all fine.

“I am a carefree student again with no worries; I’m a typical young student; I am back to my carefree lifestyle and I don’t worry any more.”

ABOUT THE FUNDRAISER

100k in 30 Days is sponsored by Sherry Fitzgerald and is open to everyone, runners, walkers, those in wheelchairs, families, colleagues, schools, community groups and sports teams.

The event was founded by Co. Louth couple, Niall Carroll and Cara McAdam, and launched in 2020 after Cara was diagnosed with breast cancer. Over the last two years, 38,000 people in 36 countries have taken part, raising €3 million for Breast Cancer Ireland.

Niall said: “The success of the event over the last two years throughout a pandemic has spurred us on to make 2022 the biggest year yet.

“We all know someone who has or who has had breast cancer and the purpose of the 100k in 30 Days is for everyone, young and old, grandparents or grandkids, to have fun and get the daily steps in while raising much-needed funds for Breast Cancer Ireland.

“Over the last two years, we’ve seen €3 million raised, which has gone into various research projects, but it doesn’t end there. We want to keep raising money to continue these trials so we’ll continue to fund finding a cure for breast cancer.”

Lauren Barrett, UCC student. Picture Denis Minihane.
Lauren Barrett, UCC student. Picture Denis Minihane.

WHERE THE FUNDS WILL GO

Aisling Hurley, CEO of Breast Cancer Ireland, said; “We’ve seen the hugely positive impact that the funds raised from 100k in 30 Days challenge has had for Breast Cancer Ireland.

“The funds raised over the last two years have supported a number of important initiatives, most importantly, the creation of a new clinical trial, the Shamrock Trial, which will involve 80 patients around the country.

“This is a hugely significant trial in that we’re trying to use a fourth generation drug where we hope, as a result, to be in a position to de-escalate the need for chemotherapy for patients who have a 100% response rate.

“Secondly, we’re supporting our specialist breast research nurses in each of the designated centres.

“Their role is to collect patient tissue samples into one large bio-bank, allowing clinicians and scientists to avail of larger volumes and thereby speed up research discovery output.

“And finally, we’re supporting our complimentary Education and Outreach programme nationally, educating women and men on the importance of good breast health.

“Breast Cancer Ireland’s vision is to seek to transform this disease from often being fatal to a treatable long-term illness that can be terminated.”

Steven McKenna, CEO of Sherry Fitzgerald, said; “We’re delighted to be sponsoring 100k in 30 Days for a second year. We have 100 offices nationwide employing over 600 people and we’ll be taking part in June.

“Unfortunately, there are very few friends, colleagues and family members who haven’t been touched by breast cancer and we’re delighted to be involved, helping play our part to fund finding a cure for breast cancer.”

100k in 30 Days in aid of Breast Cancer Ireland sponsored by Sherry Fitzgerald takes place over the month of June.

For more information and to register, see: www.100kin30days.ie. Those who register for 100k in 30 Days and log their distances are also in with a chance to win prizes such as a €5,000 holiday voucher, numerous weekends away and shopping vouchers.

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