A courageous Portstewart woman says she has been overwhelmed by the public’s response to her inspirational book about living with a rare form of cancer.
Evelyn McCullough (61) was given the devastating news last April that she had Pseudomyxoma Peritonei, an appendix cancer which is now believed to affect at least two people in a million.
A keen photographer, Evelyn published ‘Shadows and Light” in January - a volume of photographs and musings - with proceeds going to Basingstoke Hospital Pseudomyxoma Peritonei unit and several cancer charities.
Evelyn told the Times: “The interest in the book has been tremendous.
“In the six weeks since the book launch it has raised £5,000 - I only asked for a donation of £5 but many people are giving much more - and I’m posting it out to places all over the world. I managed to get Paypal up and running, which makes it easy for people overseas to donate.
“I have already sent cheques of £1,000 to Basingstoke Hospital PMP unit, whose surgeons saved my life last year, £1,000 to Laurel House Chemotherapy Unit and £500 to Marie Curie. Cheques are going out to Macmillan and the NI Hospice soon. There has been incredible goodwill from local shopkeepers with Wilsons, Sheila’s and Mullan’s Fashions on the Prom in Portstewart keeping it and collecting donations. Also Crusoes in Castlerock, Sketchers in Bendooragh and, most importantly of all, Waterstones Coleraine have put it on its own display table and are collecting donations too.”
Explaining why she produced the book, Evelyn added: “It was when I was recovering from the operation, which has given me eight more precious months, that I realised many of my photos reflected a life with cancer.
“The cover image of the book was taken on a very bleak day when ominous rain clouds were darkening the sky all around Poerstewart.
“However, there was this wonderful shaft of sunlight on the waves at the strand, lighting up the windblown spray. I had this photograph in my room in the Causeway Hospital while I was waiting to hear if I could have a life-extending operation in Baslingstoke Hospital last year, and this image came to symbolise hope for me in a very dark period.
“And so I started to compile this book of images to raise funds for the cancer charities whose help has been invaluable to me since I became ill.
“The pictures depict various emotions under headings such as: One step at a time; Watching the world go by; Stormy times; Rather the worse for wear; A challenging walk; and more optimistically, Make hay while the sun shines.”
Evelyn says that the photographs “ reflect a life with cancer, not just for me, but anyone with a serious illness.”
“The aim of the book is to show that although times may be tough there is still positivity to be found in sometimes the most unlikely places,” she explained.
“There is also a fair bit of wry humour, as for example in my shot of the bleary-eyed donkey which looks exactly how I feel after getting chemo.
“I hope this book with bring comfort, and perhaps a smile to people who also have a cancer diagnosis. It is meant to show that there is indeed positivity to be found even in our darkest moments, such as in my photo of wild seas at Balliintoy harbour.
“A closer look reveals a red lifebelt attached to a wall, a symbol of a helping hand in times of need, and lamps that cast a guiding light as we endeavour to find our way. We just have to look out for these lifelines.
“They can come, for example, in the form of a chat with a Macmillan nurse, or by joining a support group, or by accepting help from family and friends.”
“Some people have told me they have bought extra copies of the book, not solely for my thoughts but to send to folks who used to live here and miss Ireland. The pictures of the scenery around here seem to appreciated.”
Despite continuing to receive treatment for her illness, Evelyn has done countless media interviews to raise awareness about Pseudomyxoma Peritonei and palliative care.
Surgeons at Basingstoke Hospital saved Evelyn’s life following a ten hour operation and she has been receiving chemotherapy since.
To obtain a copy of the book Evelyn can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org