The 48-year-old teacher and founder of the Lagan Dragons, which is made up of breast cancer survivors, family members and medical professionals, lives in Ballymena with husband David and their three children Joel (23), Ethan (20) and 12-year-old Sarah.
Q. Do you take regular exercise and if so, what?
A. I try to walk as much as I can with my dog Alfie, who we got from Assisi Animal Sanctuary six years ago. We like to get out locally, as well as near the Braid River and Portglenone Forest; walking is a great stress reliever and it’s good just to get out among nature – being near water is a wonderful thing. And of course I train with the Lagan Dragons once a week, as well as being out again on Saturday.
Q. What’s the worst illness you’ve had?
A. Breast cancer, which I was diagnosed with in 2007 when I was 37. I had a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Because I have the BRCA gene I will have further risk-reducing surgeries. Generally I am in good health now, but obviously I have had to deal with the trauma of everything I have been through. I took an early menopause and was ill-equipped to deal with that which sounds strange, given that I’ve had breast cancer which most would feel is the worst thing that could possibly happen. Early menopause is tricky enough to come through, but mine was immediate. Exercise helps, as does having people to talk to.
Q. How healthy is your diet?
A. My husband has porridge made for me in the morning, as I take ages to get ready first thing. I have it with fruit. I eat fruit throughout the day and David and I have been doing Slimming World and trying to stick to the principles of healthy eating as well as having a more plant-based diet. However, there is still lots of chocolate in the house from Christmas – my mother-in-law brought a 36 portion box of Tunnocks Mallows round to our house this week.
Q. Any bad habits?
A. Chocolate. I love Maltesers and try to buy the fun-sized bags rather than the family-sized bags – as once opened they will all be eaten. I try not to deny myself, as the more you ban something the more you crave it.
Q. Do you drink and/or smoke – if so, how much?
A. I don’t smoke and will have a glass of white wine but only with a meal.
Q. Do you take any health supplements?
A. Vitamin D for bone density and because most of us are deficient in this vitamin in Northern Ireland. Also, fizzy vitamin C tablets first thing every morning.
Q. How do you take time out?
A. Going for a walk or listening to music – I like modern, chart music, classic and as a child of the Eighties a bit of Wham! and Madonna too. Spending time with family is also important – to sit down and have a chat with everyone, as we all lead such busy lives.
Q. How well do you sleep?
A. I can’t sleep well when I have something on my mind. Because of where I am in life now, sometimes sleep can be problematic. I do whatever I can to prepare for sleep by not drinking caffeine too late and reading a book rather than scrolling through emails or Facebook on my phone before bed. But there are times when I am wide awake at 3am.
Q. Do you worry about getting old?
A. After everything I’ve been through I relish getting old, because I have a different perspective on it now. I have some friends who haven’t had the opportunity to grow old. I embrace every scar and wrinkle now.
Q. What is your go-to product or habit that keeps you feeling healthy?
A. Paddling down the Lagan in a dragon boat with a lot of mad women! And having a good giggle.
For more details, visit lagandragons.com