One Fermanagh woman, who survived cancer and described those who treated her as “amazing individuals who could not do enough”, has called for more investment to be made to the NHS.

Ursula McFarland told her story to the Impartial Reporter as it emerged that cancer targets across Northern Ireland have fallen dramatically within the last year.

Health Trusts in Northern Ireland have a target which aims that 95 percent of cancer patients receive treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral. In August 2018 84 percent of patients in the Western Health and Social Care Trust received their first treatment within that time. In August 2019 that figure had dropped to 60 percent.

It is a trend that is being repeated across the other four health trusts in Northern Ireland and Ursula found the figures worrying:

“It is so important to get early treatment. The care I got was fantastic and I could not speak highly enough of all of the staff but there has to be more investment in services. People need early treatment.”

Ursula had watched her mother go through breast cancer, bringing her to appointments and treatments and that experience sparked something inside her to go and get herself checked out. She was 48.

“I went to the Action Cancer big bus, I felt I wanted to do it even though I didn’t feel ill or anything like that.”

From there Ursula was refereed to Altnagelvin hospital, although she was still was “not unduly concerned”. A subsequent ultrasound and biopsy led to Ursula being told that pre-cancerous cells had been found. Within two weeks she had an operation.

At that stage Ursula said she “was not worrying” about her health. “I had told myself that it was pre-cancerous,” she said.

But the news came back that the tissue that had been removed in the operation had in fact had cancerous cells.

“I was devastated, and I cried the whole day. My mum had come through it, and know I was sitting in the same chair.”

Ursula had a further operation to remove her lymph nodes and she admits that it was a very difficult time following this operation;

“If anyone had of talked to me after that I would have just cried every time. I had it in my head that the cancer had been in the lymph nodes as well.”

Nine days later Ursula received the news that no cancer cells had been found in her lymph nodes.

“It was such a relief and I had a real positive outlook from then and I just knew that everything was going to be ok.”

Ursula had four weeks of radium with her treatment finishing in March of this year and she has such praise and admiration for the staff she met on her journey.

“I couldn’t fault anything. They were so nice and made you at ease. But they need more support.”

“Only my mum had cancer I would never have gone to get checked out on the bus. I would have waited to be called when I was 50, but I don’t like to think of what would have happened if I did that. Early detection and early treatment are so so important and I try and tell everyone, please go and get yourself checked out. Don’t wait to be called.”

Since her treatment Ursula has raised some much needed funds for cancer charities. A coffee morning organised by her and her mum saw £5,200 raised with £4,000 going to local charity Cancer Connect NI, who Ursula describes as “just fantastic” and £1,200 to Macmillan Cancer.