Niall Conner: Action Cancer Fundraiser Profile

31 October 2018

Every year Action Cancer helps to save and support 30,000 people across Northern Ireland through the provision of free services from breast screening and M.O.T. health checks to counselling and complementary therapies such as reflexology and yoga. As Niall explains these services provide invaluable support to those affected by cancer:

“I was first diagnosed in 2006 and after surgery and treatment got the all clear in 2007. I went through college and university and got involved with Action Cancer when I was doing my dissertation – my final research project was about cancer. I started counselling with Action Cancer in 2015.  The counselling really helped me to deal with issues that I had left for a long time.

“I didn’t realise how big a positive impact the counselling had on me until about six weeks after I’d finished it, it was then that I realized how much I’d grown as a person and how I was able to manage my life better as a result. I went on to become a Peer Mentor at Action Cancer and I did their Positive Living Programme. It’s different for different people but the counselling I got through Action Cancer definitely had a majorly positive impact on my life. I was re-diagnosed in April of this year and since then I’ve been getting support in the form of life coaching and complementary therapies. Action Cancer’s support services brought me to where I am now, I’m a far better person and more able to deal with my re-diagnosis.”

Niall was due to take part in the Action Cancer Great Wall of China trek along with 35 other fundraisers who left last weekend. Unfortunately, the recent re-diagnosis meant this wasn’t possible. However Niall continues to have a positive resolve to live life to the fullest and help others do the same.

“I really believe that you regret the things that you don’t do in life the most as opposed to the things that you do so that’s why I signed up for the China trek. Obviously, I had a re-diagnosis back in April so I can’t join the trek this year. I was a bit annoyed about it at first but I just got on with things. I started having my treatment and accepted that I would just have to chill out for six months or so and wait until next year to do the trek.

“After beating cancer the first time, I could have spent the next 11 years in the house curled up in fear of getting cancer again but I didn’t. I had that wee phrase ‘I beat cancer, I can do anything’ so when I was re-diagnosed I said to myself do you know what I’ve done it before I can do it again. It’s that positive mindset which allows me to grab opportunities with both hands so that when I look back on the last 11 years I’m happy that I didn’t waste my time. I’m not saying cancer was the best thing to ever have happened but it certainly changed my life. The people I met and the support I had along the way from the counselling led to the best experiences of my life. When I get the all clear again I want to do a counselling course and go into counselling as a profession.”

Within a short six months of registering for Action Cancer’s China Trek, Niall had raised £2,500 making huge strides towards his goal. Convinced that the fundraising target should not be a source of fear, Niall insists that lots of small actions can add up to big results.

“The biggest challenge with fundraising is thinking of new ways to bring in more money because you get to the stage when you’ve asked everyone that you know to sponsor you or help out in some way. So you really need to get organised and scope things out and try to think outside the box and come up with new ideas to make your event or fundraising activity stand out.

“I did lots of small things which raised a lot of money. I had a few bag packs, a car boot sale, I raffled off some hampers and set up an online Just Giving page. I also gathered a group of friends and we all got sponsored to climb Slieve Donard – we had such a brilliant day and it was great training. Action Cancer have lots of events going on throughout the year as well which are a great way to boost your fundraising a bit. I did their zip line across the River Lagan and the abseil down the Europa which was great craic and an easy way to raise money. These events were already happening, I didn’t need to do anything other than sign up and get sponsored. If you don’t sign up for those things you won’t get the money in.”

Action Cancer challenge events like the Great Wall of China Trek or the Cambodia Trek to Angkor Wat require participants to raise a minimum sponsorship before putting their feet to the test against miles and miles (and miles!) of difficult terrain in an unfamiliar foreign land. These challenges are achievable with the right training and, as Niall explains, the rewards for such grueling effort are huge.

 “I have completed a few overseas challenges before and got so much from them. They’re character building. They show you what it’s like to get completely out of your comfort zone, they put you in a different environment and show you what you can achieve if you put your mind to something.

 “You’ve got to live every day to the full that’s what I’ve learnt after my first diagnosis because you don’t know how long you’ve got and that’s why I will continue to take on new challenges to push myself beyond what I’ve achieved. I‘d encourage anyone to do an Action Cancer adventure challenge like an overseas trek even if you think you can’t, nothing is impossible just go for it!”

Niall is sharing his story to raise awareness of the services and events Action Cancer offers. Fundraising for Action Cancer can help to save lives and support those affected by cancer in Northern Ireland. For more information on Action Cancer’s 2019 overseas Cambodia trek to Angkor Wat please visit Cambodia Trek Events Page, email [email protected] or call 028 9080 3349.