Bernie Montgomery is the founder of Cancer Lifeline – a project which provides vital support for people living with cance.
If anyone had told me 17 years ago I’d still be around today with three lovely grandchildren I’d never have believed them.
I’d had a devastating breast cancer diagnosis after I noticed a lump in 1997. A 13% chance of survival means you quickly get things into perspective
Cancer is about needing help ‘now’ – but back then I couldn’t find the what I needed. I needed information about chemotherapy and I’d no idea reconstructive surgery was even available. There were financial worries too – I couldn’t work and feared losing my home.
There had to be a better way so I advertised in a paper asking other women facing cancer to get in touch. Four came to that first meeting in 1999 and since then our group – which developed into Cancer Lifeline – has helped hundreds of people affected by cancer from North Belfast, Shankill and Newtownabbey.
By 2011 we realised the scale of the need and an Awards for All grant was the catalyst in creating what we have today. We used the funding to think big and plan ahead.
Since then we’ve received support through Reaching Communities and are currently being funded through the Reaching Out Connecting Older People programme.
This funding is long term which gives you a chance to plan ahead and that’s often the single biggest factor in an organisation’s sustainability. The National Lottery Community Fund has been with us through every step of our development – giving us the flexibility to try new things and because of this we have been able to work with more than 20,000 people over the past 10 years.
I’m sitting here now and this is a dream. I still have health issues but you know what – I’m alive.