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Inspirational Model From Belfast Who Lost Her Leg To Rare Cancer Wins Diana Award

Bernadette Hagans (25) from Belfast who had her leg amputated to stop a rare cancer from spreading has received the prestigious Diana Award for her work promoting and celebrating difference and inspiring children and young people diagnosed with cancer.

Bernadette who was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, an aggressive cancer of the soft tissue, aged 22, has received the Diana Award, the highest praise young people can achieve for their commitment to humanitarian work, social justice, and social action. The Diana Award was set up as a lasting legacy to Princess Diana’s belief that young people have the power to change the world for the better.

Bernadette had to cope with being told that amputating her leg was the only option to save her. Defying medical expectations, she 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 who nominated her for the Diana Award. 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.

Most recently Bernadette has supported Samuel Sheppard (11) from Enniskillen who was diagnosed with cancer in 2002 and required an amputation. Knowing that Samuel was struggling with the thought of losing his leg we connected his family with Bernadette who has been supporting him since. Bernadette met Samuel in hospital, she introduced him to other young people who have a prosthetic and also arranged for him to have his prosthetic personalised.

Speaking about Bernadette’s award Samuel’s mum Avril Sheppard said,

“Bernadette more than deserves this award as an inspiring young person. She has overcome such personal adversity in her life and is a true inspiration. Since Samuel met Bernadette in January 2021, he has decided to be proud of his journey. Bernadette wears her story with beauty and pride, and this has inspired my son. She is a true inspiration to all who cross her path.”

Our Cancer Support Specialist Helen Patterson, who got to know Bernadette when she was referred to the charity to help her to adjust to life post-treatment, added,

“Bernadette embodies what the Diana Award is all about. She is a warm, positive, and an enormously resilient young woman. Her ability to connect with people and her desire to help others stems from how genuine she is. What you see is what you get. We are incredibly proud of how Bernadette is breaking the mould when it comes to what it means to have a disability, and how she is supporting young people and families navigating cancer. The future certainly is bright for Bernadette.”

Speaking about her award 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 and it is crazy that people would go out of their way to give me this award because I never would have expected it. I am so grateful. I am really loving getting to support Cancer Fund for Children and the families they help. I am really lucky and again just so grateful to be receiving this award.”

Bernadette is currently working with us to produce a book to help children who require an amputation to support them as they adjust to life with a prosthetic. She is also a finalist in this year’s Miss Northern Ireland contest, the first finalist with a disability or difference.

Find out more about the support we offer young people like Bernadette here.