A VOLUNTEER who helps women struggling with breast cancer by sharing her own experience of the disease is in the running to be named Scotland’s Charity Champion of the Year.
Retired auditor Pearl McCourt, from Linlithgow, has been nominated by Breast Cancer Care, where she is a stalwart of the charity’s Someone Like Me support service.
People don’t want to bother the GP. It helps to speak to someone who knows what it’s likePEARL McCOURT
Ms McCourt was 45 when she noticed a change in her breast and went to her doctor. Unfortunately, the first consultant she saw failed to diagnose the cancer and by the time she sought advice again, nine months later, she needed a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment.
She said she had received vital support from Breast Cancer Care and wanted to give something back.
Ms McCourt, 59, said: “I am so happy to be able to help others through such a challenging time.”
She said her work with the charity allowed her to show people there was life after breast cancer.
She said: “If someone phones the helpline with an issue, they are matched with a volunteer who has had the same experience. It might be just one chat, or sometimes I have supported for a year or more, as they go through all their treatment. And nowadays a lot of people prefer e-mail to speaking on the phone, so I do that as well.
“A lot of it is about the side effects and people wondering ‘Is that normal?’. They don’t want to bother their GP, but it helps them to speak to someone who knows what it’s like.
“People often say no matter how much support there is from family and friends, no-one really understands unless they have been through the same thing.”
She is also involved in lingerie evenings which the charity holds.
“We have these in various department stores, to show ladies they can wear normal sexy bras after their treatment.
“I had a mastectomy and didn’t have a reconstruction. A lot of people think you have to wear special bras, which is not the case. And I do breast awareness talks, reminding women it’s not necessarily a lump they are looking for.”
After her own experience, Ms McCourt said she always urged people to ask for a second medical opinion if they were not happy. “I believe we know our own bodies better than anyone else,” she said.
Breast Cancer Care manager Joanne Stewart said: “Pearl is totally dedicated to supporting people affected by breast cancer, doing everything she can to help others.”
Several city-based charities are in the 2015 Scottish Charity Awards, organised by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. They include Stonewall Scotland, nominated for Charity of the Year; and Calder Residents Association and the Grove Fountainbridge Community Garden, both nominated in the Celebrating Communities category.