Bernadette Hagans, 25, was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, an aggressive cancer of the soft tissue, aged 22.
“I knew I was in pain. I knew something was wrong. I didn’t want to bother anyone,” Hagans says of her cancer diagnosis, in 2018.”
After being told that amputating her leg was the only option to save her, she defied medical expectations, learned to walk with her prosthetic and was discharged from hospital within 10 days.
Bernadette’s willingness to share her experiences and pride in her prosthetic led to her involvement with several local cancer charities, including Cancer Fund for Children.
She has used her profile to share her inspirational story and her social media channels have become a platform for empowerment, celebrating difference, and thriving, not just surviving cancer.
Bernadette said: “All I have wanted to do is try to use my journey and experiences to be there to support other people going through something similar. I am really loving getting to support Cancer Fund for Children and the families they help.”
Shortly after her surgery Bernadette landed contracts with London modelling agency Zebedee Management and Primark before more recently signing to ACA Models in Belfast.
She has also modelled for luxury brand Kurt Geiger and is now considered one of Northern Ireland’s top models after her third place finish at the Miss NI 2021 pageant,
Bernadette’s journey with cancer and her part in Miss NI were the focus of a BBC show, Our Lives: The Girl With The Colourful Leg.
The title of the film refers to her prosthetic leg.
“I knew I wanted to mess around with it,” she explained in the film, en route to the car workshop where the leg is “modded” with a new colour every month or so.”
She added:“Having any sort of difference or disability doesn’t make you any less of a person – it doesn’t change your character. So just go for anything that you think is going to make you happy,” she said.
The Daisy Gala Ball, which was held in the Culloden Estate and Spa in Holywood, was organised by long-term supporter of the charity, Leslie Hughes OBE, with the support of Kris Turnbull founder of Kris Turnbull studios, and was attended by over 300 guests from the world of business and beyond including Brian and Mark of The Gourmet Boys and Lady Mary Peters.
Speaking at the event, ceo of Cancer Fund for Children, Phil Alexander said: “We are so grateful to everyone who attended the Daisy Ball and helped to make it such a success. The incredible amount of money raised will help fund our essential services which provide vital support to children and families impacted by cancer.
“The work that we do would never be possible without our amazing supporters and I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who sponsored the event and made it possible. You truly are helping us make a difference across Northern Ireland.”
Long-time supporter of the charity and organiser of the event, Leslie Hughes OBE added: “I’m so proud to be able to support such an amazing charity and delighted with how the event went and how much money was raised. Bringing people together, to celebrate the great work of such a fantastic organisation and to raise money to ensure it can continue is extremely rewarding, as well as good fun!”
Every week in Northern Ireland another three children and young people aged 0-24 years old will be diagnosed with cancer and many more young people will be struggling to cope with their parent’s cancer.
Cancer Fund for Children is here to help, guide and support families. Through services including individual support, group support and therapeutic short breaks Cancer Fund for Children help to empower family members, so they feel better equipped to cope with the emotional impact of cancer. They also provide bereavement support to help families cope with the death of a child or parent.
The charity recently opened the new Narnia Gardens situated at the Cancer Fund for Children Daisy Lodge facility in the Mournes, in an area of outstanding natural beauty between Newcastle and Tollymore Forest Park.
The £10,000 project, which was funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, was undertaken in partnership with the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS), with much of the work carried out by prison staff and men in their care from the Horticulture Department at Maghaberry Prison.
The Narnia Garden has a host of unique features including a handcrafted door; an archery lane that can also be used as a play area; a night line, which is a sensory deprivation activity used for confidence building, where participants use a rope to negotiate their way around the garden; a composite decked seating area with benches used for workshops and discussions; atmospheric lighting; a roped handrail along the steps leading to the magical garden and a graveled seating area for reflection.