The husband of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer has told of how their saving grace was an early diagnosis.
When Sharon Nelson noticed a lump in her breast, the family's world instantly turned upside down.
Within 26 days of being diagnosed with cancer, the mum-of-two was in hospital undergoing major surgery to save her life.
Her doting husband Michael, son also named Michael, nine, and daughter Niamh, five, were left terrified they could lose her.
Now, as the 40-year-old works to get back to full strength following chemotherapy, Michael has told Belfast Live how early detection no doubt saved his wife's life.
The 41-year-old said: "It came as a bolt out of the blue, it turned our world upside down.
"She was diagnosed on July 4 last year and 26 days later she was having major surgery. She had a mastectomy, reconstruction and a reduction on the other side.
"Several weeks later she had to start chemotherapy once she had recovered.
"She found a lump and it was a whirlwind from then on, our lives changed completely straight away. It was quite a stressful time.
"It was stage 2 and grade 3, so it was one of the most aggressive grades and growing quite rapidly. She was lucky enough to catch it at stage 2, the stage before it reaches your lymph nodes.
"It all moved quite quickly, from she was in the breast clinic going for a mammogram to having surgery was 26 days.
"All the staff at the City Hospital are fantastic, the doctors, surgeons and especially the nurses."
Michael said without an early diagnosis, the family could be facing a very different reality.
It was when the family got the opportunity to spend time at Daisy Lodge, a purpose-built therapeutic short break centre in Newcastle for families affected by cancer, that it hit home.
They spent time with another family whose mum had cancer.
But weeks after the visit they found out she had passed away, and it was then that the severity of their own situation hit home and how fortunate Sharon was to find the lump when she did.
Michael said getting to spend time at Daisy Lodge was an "enriching experience" for the family and helped them take some valuable time out together to forget about the realities of what they were going through.
"It is like a respite break because it takes such a toll on you, no matter how strong a person you are, it takes its toll," he said.
"Your daily routine continues, bills keep coming, washing and cooking needs done and uniforms need sorted. You go into auto-pilot.
"Daisy Lodge is a chance to go and relax and put any worries or concerns to one side. It is fantastic, the charity is geared towards children that have cancer and their families going through diagnosis, or children who have a parent who has cancer.
"When you go, you are booked in with people in a similar situation to you, for us, it was all parents who have cancer and young children.
"While we were down there, they had a whole range of activities arranged over the few days. There was yoga and relaxation, mindfulness workshops, massage and reflexology.
"It was great, we had not felt so relaxed in such a long time, we were moving from pillar to post and dealing with what was coming next.
"When we were there we met another couple who were the same age as us and their daughter was the same age as our son, the kids just clicked and got on like a house on fire and were sad to leave each other.
"Her mother was terminal and it did not hit home with us how important the work of the charity is until a few weeks later when we found out the mother had passed away.
"That was the last opportunity for them to have a break together and some quality time, to forget the worries of daily life on top of them.
"It made us realise, they are the same age as us, that is a partner burying their loved one, children burying a parent.
"If we had not found Sharon's lump at the time we did, it could have been our reality too.
"We were very affected by it and in the aftermath decided we wanted to do something to give back because it is such a great charity."
On May 26, Michael will join a group trekking up Slieve Donard to raise money for the Cancer Fund for Children.
So far they have raised £570 and Michael said the family are blown away by people's generosity.
He said: "It costs £250 for them to put a family up for the weekend and provide meals and staff costs. We set up a JustGiving and put that figure in but now it is at £570 so that could provide two families with a break."
The family is looking to the future and how they can give back to those who supported them as Sharon finished her last round of chemotherapy in December.
Looking back on having to break the news of Sharon's diagnosis to their children, Michael said: "We had debated how much to let the kids know, our son is nine and our wee girl's five.
"We decided we would tell them once we got to the stage of having chemotherapy and Sharon would lose her hair, you can not really hide it from then.
"We wanted them to know and be able to ask us questions so we could alleviate any fears and take away any stress.
"The hospital were great with that, they have a story book called Mummy Found a Lump, we were able to read it to them as it is geared towards young children and the language is something they can understand and pictures so they could visualise what was going on.
"When you are there you deal with a whole range of people on a daily basis, from doctors, surgeons and oncologists to social workers because we have young children.
"They were the ones who made us aware of charities out there like the Cancer Fund for Children and they put us in touch with them.
"We are so grateful for that now."
To find out how you can support the family with their fundraising, click here .
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