Two sisters grieve after losing loved ones to the same ‘silent killer’

Two grieving sisters who lost loved ones to the same “silent killer” disease now plan to fulfil a dying wish and cycle a 480-mile journey around Northern Ireland to raise money for a local charity. Andrea Harrower lost her husband Paddy and her sister, Cathy Booth, lost her best friend, Natalie, to pancreatic cancer and now they wish to undertake a cycling challenge to raise money for research to help fight the disease.

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According to Belfast Live, Andrea’s late husband, Paddy Harrower, was given just over three months to live after being diagnosed on Easter Sunday 2022. The former PE teacher died on July 24, 2022 and his symptoms presented late. They included indigestion and pain in the upper abdomen.

Cathy also lost her school friend, Natalie Wilson, 40, who died leaving behind three young children.

Just days before he died, Paddy challenged his wife and sister-in-law to undertake a challenge to raise money for cancer research.

This week, the two will set out on an epic cycling journey around Northern Ireland and raise money for NIPANC – a Northern Ireland charity working to “improve awareness of pancreatic cancer and its signs and symptoms”. The charity slogan, #TimeMatters aims to raise awareness and seek early diagnosis and treatment of the disease

The event is called #PedalThePeriphery and begins at the gates of Ormeau Park in Belfast on June 9. The two cyclists will be followed by Andrea’s recently restored, purple 1974 VW Beetle support vehicle. It was repaired, free of charge, by Master Technician Mark Strutt, previously accredited through Volkswagen.

The bike will be mounted on top of the car and will make the metaphorical journey along with Cathy and Andrea.

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Andrea, who is a personal trainer from Dromara, said: “Cycling was so important to Paddy, his self-devised challenges and other official events at home and abroad. “During his illness he set himself his own challenges as a reason to get out of bed until the day he died.”

She added: “His motto was I’m not living with cancer, cancer is living with me and I’m taking it for a ride.”

A couple of weeks before his passing, her two sons, Fraser, 19, and Alex, 15, her sister and brother, did a final ride all together from home.

Another hashtag, #IBlamePaddy, is also being introduced to inject some fun into fundraising. Andrea explained: “He was a modest man who wouldn’t like too much attention, but we think Paddy would be secretly pleased that the hashtag can be used by anyone fundraising to literally blame him on any crazy thing they do, to raise money and awareness for this important cause.” 

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Cathy, a former Director at BDO who now runs her own business consultancy, from Hillsborough, said: “Within five years, I not only lost Paddy, an incredible brother-in-law, but also one of my school friends Natalie of 30 years to this devastating disease.”

The first audit in over ten years into pancreatic cancer in Northern Ireland has revealed there has been an 86% increase in confirmed cases, rising from 152 in 2001 to 283 in 2020 since a previous audit was carried out in 2001.

The audit published in May was funded by NIPANC with the audit work undertaken by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry (NICR), Queen’s University Belfast in partnership with HPB clinical staff in the Belfast Trust.

Pancreatic cancer symptoms include; jaundice, yellowing of the skin and eyes, changes to taste, and toilet habits. For more information on other symptoms, or how to get support, visit the NIPANC website here.

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