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02 Oct 2022

Watch: Brave Donegal Mum and son share cancer story to promote Daffodil Day

“The filming has allowed us to tell our truth about our cancer experience"

Daffodil Day is almost upon us, and after the challenges of the last two years, the Irish Cancer Society is hopeful that its annual fundraiser will be a big success.

People will be selling daffodils and other items all around Donegal and across Ireland on March 25. As well as supporting the main event, people can host their own fundraisers, donate online or by text, and can help to spread the word by sharing news about Daffodil Day and the work of the Irish Cancer Society. 

A Donegal Mum, 49-year-old Rachel Akkoç and her 16-year-old son Ziya are leading the call for support as they feature in the Daffodil Day 2022 advert. 

Ms Akkoç from Glenkeogh near Letterkenny shares her own cancer story here. 

She said: “It was November of 2018, I had been experiencing intermittent breast pain for about two years prior to this and the doctors had always told me this was nothing to be concerned about.

"As the pain got progressively worse, I trusted my gut and went to my GP. She discovered a lump in my left armpit and I was referred to my local breast clinic. 

“On the day of my appointment at the clinic I was told that I had breast cancer, they felt they didn’t need to wait for the biopsy results to tell me. I later learnt that the cancer had also spread to my lymph nodes.

"I remember that day well as it was the day Storm Diane hit the country. I will never forget walking to my car alone, with the wind and the rain hitting me and feeling so numb and in shock from what I had just been told.”

Ms Akkoç began chemotherapy but only managed two sessions initially, as she was hospitalised after both and experienced problems with drug intolerances and other pre-existing medical conditions.

This left her facing the difficult decision as to whether to continue treatment or not.

She opted to move straight to surgery. Following surgery, she was referred back for more chemotherapy using a different drug combination, but didn’t manage to complete the recommended course, again due to side effects. 

Ms Akkoç  then went on to receive radiation, and antibody treatment injections. She will also be on Tamoxifen for ten years.

For support during her diagnosis and treatment, Ms Akkoç used a number of Irish Cancer Society support services including the counselling service and the Daffodil Centre.

“When I was first diagnosed, it triggered an episode of depression and anxiety,” she said.

“I was very fortunate however, as I was pointed in the direction of the Irish Cancer Society’s free counselling service, which I availed of.

"From that, I was also referred to the Daffodil Centre in my local hospital, which I hadn’t actually heard of before. My husband and I went in there and spoke with a lovely nurse who offered us advice and support on the many aspects of a cancer diagnosis, from the financial impact, to how to tell your children about your diagnosis.

"The nurse also referred me on to a course called ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ which works to boost your self-esteem while going through cancer treatment. I found that incredibly helpful.”

Ms Akkoç says her cancer diagnosis was very hard on her family and that her two sons basically had to cope without their mother for a year and a half.

“I was physically and mentally unable to be present as a mother, or indeed as a person throughout my treatment, which was very upsetting and had a huge impact on us.”

Ms Akkoç’s son Ziya recalls the impact of his mother’s cancer diagnosis. 

“I was in First Year of secondary school and it was all such a massive shock, it hit me so hard and put a dent in my life. I had never dealt with something so difficult before.”

Speaking about her decision to share her story as part of the Daffodil Day 2-22 advert, Ms Akkoç said: “We are delighted as a family to be given the opportunity to share our story. 

“The filming has allowed us to tell our truth about our cancer experience. 

“Our experience was often very difficult, but in many ways, being a part of this advert has brought a sense of closure. 

“I'm a big believer in making positive opportunities come from something bad like cancer.”

Information on how to support Daffodil Day can be found at cancer.ie/getinvolved

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