Northern Ireland

Finding solace from cancer in Clonard

Lynette McKendry
Image caption Lynette McKendry belongs to the Church of Ireland but found solace in Clonard monastery in west Belfast during her battle with cancer

Cancer, chemotherapy and discovering Clonard - it's been an extraordinary year for County Antrim woman Lynette McKendry.

In February, Lynette had a double mastectomy. In an unusual case, inflammatory breast cancer was found in one breast while a different form of cancer was in the other.

Lynette was dealt a triple blow in August when secondary cancer was found in her brain. A tumour was removed and further treatment followed.

Lynette said intends to enjoy Christmas - especially the food and drink.

"We are having lots of family round from early morning. Cava will be flowing and lots of lemonade for the children, mince pies, and a feast for dinner.

"Last year, my mouth was covered in sores from the chemotherapy treatment. I actually couldn't eat."

Lynette first appeared on the BBC in February just weeks before both her breasts were removed.

"It's been such a tough year. Cancer turns your life upside down. I honestly believe I am not the same person that in was in July 2015," she said.

Image copyright BBC Sport
Image caption Lynette McKendry says just spending time praying at Clonard Monastery has helped her as she struggles with cancer

Lynette is not alone. There are currently more than 20,000 people aged 15-64 in Northern Ireland, living with cancer.

Each person deals with the disease in their own way.

On Lynette's journey, she stumbled across Clonard Monastery in west Belfast.

A member of the Church of Ireland walking through the doors of a Catholic church in August was both a daunting and enlightening experience.

"I can understand why some would question if there is a God whenever they have been thrown so many hand grenades, like I have been thrown this year," she said.

"I think, at the start, I probably did question that. But I got over it and I definitely have found peace just being able to spend time on my own. Praying has helped me get through."

A friend introduced her to Clonard and it was to become a place of solace for her in the heart of west Belfast.

"I have found great comfort here. Yes, I am Church of Ireland but this place is so welcoming to everyone, no matter what your denomination," she said.

"So just being here and just spending time praying and having time to myself has really helped me."

Throughout the year Lynette has been raising awareness about inflammatory breast cancer.

It is a rare and very aggressive disease - rather than a lump appearing, the breast looks swollen, red or inflamed.

Image caption Lynette McKendry said: "Cancer turns your life upside down"

Lynette said when she was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in her brain she thought her time was up.

"I thought that when you are given that type of news, it was curtains down for me. Coming to Clonard has given me the strength to just turn it around and instead raise awareness."

Now, Lynette is looking to the future.

"Family are everything especially my boys and husband. We have lots of family trips planned," she said.

"I also intend to continue to fundraise to raise awareness."

That's next year - before then Lynette intends to celebrate Christmas.