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Talkback at the Cancer Centre......

Wendy Austin | 14:25 UK time, Thursday, 3 February 2011

What a day today -  the Talkback team were live at the NI Regional Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital. Its one of those places you're not in a big rush to visit, isn't it....unless of course you or your loved one have had a cancer diagnosis, in which case you can't get there soon enough!

Its still something many people just don't want to talk about - The Big C...its a taboo, so we set out to get a feeling of what its like to get a diagnosis, and to deal with and live with the disease in all its different forms.

Some facts and figures - 60,000 people in Northern Ireland are living with cancer ; that's one person on any bus you squeeze on to. Every year there are 5% more people who need radio therapy, 10% more on anti-cancer drugs. The radiotherapy unit deals with about 260 people a day - 80 new people start treatment every week, and another 80 leave. There are dozens going through chemotherapy as day patients every day, and for those who need more intensive care or have complications, there are 75 beds in 4 wards .

Of course that doesn't touch on the human side at all - but we certainly did so today, talking to patients undergoing treatment, like Kim McCallen from Lisburn who's on her second course of chemo, or young Michael O'Hare . He's just 19. He's a tri-athelete, and felt a bump on his head when he was swimming one day. It turned out to be a rare form of bone cancer; he had major surgery, replacing the top of his skull.

Countless sessions of radiotherapy, and nine courses of chemo later he's looking to finish treatment in May - and head off on holiday hopefully in June before resuming his university studies, which have been put on hold. Ironically, he wants to be a radiographer " at least I'll know what its like from both sides", he joked on the programme today, as he wandered round in his PJs, with a glucose drip running all the time.

Dr Seamus McAleer is Clinical Director for Oncology and Haematology - in his 25 years in the speciality he's seen huge changes - from 1000 new patients a year, to 6000 now coming in; changes too in survival rates - they've improved exponentially thanks to new and often expensive treatments coming on stream. But both he and Geoff Hill who's Co-Director for Cancer and Specialist Medicine in the Belfast Trust, emphasised the  challenges posed by budgetary cuts - and underlined the detrimental effect those could have on the Centre -those points raised with the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey after 1 on the programme today.......

But listening to the Minister's answers, it seems they and the rest of us have some time to wait yet before finding out just how hard vital services like Cancer care here are likely to be hit.

If you missed Talkback today  here's the link - believe me, its worth it...quite a humbling experience for us all, and we came away counting our blessings.  https://bbc.in/hZ5wW3 


Deirdre Conlon  Care services manager  UCF ;Geoff Hill is the Co Director for Cancer and Specialist Medicine and Dr Seamus McAleer is the Clinical Director for Oncology and Haematology.


Dr Joe O'Sullivan Oncologist in charge of Radiotherapy "Dr Joe"; with Geoff, Seamus and Wendy


Wendy in one of the wigs from Seamus Gallagher's Hair Affair (they work through Macmillan and the centre) talking to Marcus Hunter -Neill  - the make-up man, who runs Look Good Feel Better NI

Producer Colette Maguire, and sound engineer Davy Neill with 19 year old bone cancer patient Michael O'Hare…complete with his drip!


The first floor foyer 'studio'





  • Comment number 1.

    Theres another big C thats going to be talked about today on Talkback,..and that Crime,sadly our society is riddled with it,and all to often treated as if theres no cure for it.
    With the shooting last night of armed criminal by an off-duty police officer in a local garage the do gooders and police haters are going to have a field day.
    I certainly dont take any joy in any young man losing his life,as we cannot know the circumstances that even lead to being desperate to rob somewhere at 7 pm in the evening......but regardless
    As a resident of East Belfast I am very aware of the huge amount of burglaries recently that have not been very well published. Having talked with local hard working law abiding residents on the crime in East Belfast, I would like to give my 100% support to the off duty officer in his actions at the local garage last night.
    If Wendy and Nolan who will be chanting from the do gooders seats want,..they can come to my street which has had 5 burglaries in the last fortnight and get a little flavour of the feeling on peoples thoughts on thieves,on indeed to the whole area in which i live which has been plagued with house break-ins,i can confidently say,although we cant condone death by shooting without trial,in this case,we certainly wont condemn it.

  • Comment number 2.

    Northern ireland is impressively at the forefront of cancer treatment having established this dedicated cancer centre. I have a friend who is sadly suffering from terminal cancer and is attending the centre. Every effort is being made to minimise her discomfort & help her & her family cope with her illness. The level of care at the Belfast centre is excellent and the prevailling atmosphere is one of support, respect and genuine care. I hope the centre will always be supported & funded to provide an essential service to those individuals and their families stricken with this most dreadful of all diseases.


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