A Ballyshannon woman is "glad to be alive" this Christmas thanks to her sharp-eyed chiropodist who she believes saved her life.
Antoinette Lynch (66) from Abbeylands, Ballyshannon was diagnosed in early 2010 with a malignant cancerous tumour in her left heel, having been alerted during a routine visit to her chiropodist Jane Orr, that there was a problem she needed to get checked out.
As the countdown to Christmas looms, Antoinette has more reason than most to be looking forward to the Christmas season with some relish:
"I'm just glad I'm still alive, it's been a tricky 12 months or so, but I owe so much to this woman," as she points to Jane.
Antoinette's problems started in August 2009 when she noticed some bleeding from her heel after she had been dancing at a wedding she and her husband Mick attended.
"I took no notice of it at first but when I called to Jane here at the Good Foot Clinic in Bundoran she immediately told me I needed to get my heel looked at," recalls Antoinette.
After a number of treatments that proved unsuccessful Antoinette was seen in February 2010 by a specialist and was told that while it appeared there was "nothing busy" going on with her heel a biopsy would be taken to determine clinically what was or was not going on.
The biopsy confirmed a malignant tumour and surgery was immediate.
Antoinette explains: "Once it was diagnosed, all hell let loose and I had it removed in the University College Hospital in Galway. I had several skin graphs to repair the heel area.
"Everyone tells me I'm a lucky lady and I agree I am," Antoinette says as she smiles across the room at her husband Mick.
Following that surgery which saw her initially requiring the use of a wheel-chair and a series of skin graphs to the heel area Antoinette is now almost back to normal - almost!
It turns out she and husband Mick are keen dancers - and at one stage a Sean Nos dancing course was contemplated, but for now that's on hold.
"I'll be happy enough to have a nice gentle waltz around the kitchen on Christmas morning," laughs Antoinette with a twinkle in her eye.
Her saviour - Jane Orr, BSC in Podiatry, who runs the Good Foot Shop and Good Foot Clinic on Bundoran's Main Street radiates a huge smile but she says there's a serious message too. There's an important message for everyone in Antoinette's story and that's why Antoinette has spoken publicly to raise awareness, she explains:
"It is a hidden killer - like a lot of cancers. Your feet are a mirror of what's going on in the rest of your body. You should look after your feet and not do a DIY job
"She was lucky because I knew what I was looking for professionally.
"My biggest point is don't tinker with something you don't know anything about. People say 'sure it's only your feet, who'll be looking at them?'. More and more with the economy we live in, people are doing DIY jobs - what I see in here sometimes is horrendous."
For Jane there is, professional pride aside, huge pride in seeing Antoinette recover from a potentially life threatening illness.
For Antoinette it's more fundamental: "Jane's intervention was very important - she picked it up and she prompted me to get something done about it.
"I'm just glad I'm still alive and Jane played a big part in that. I can put the feet up now and I have Jane to thank for it, I'm so grateful for her help and to all of those people who have helped me on this journey - literally one painful step at a time - I wish to say thank you this Christmas. In particular I must say a huge thank you to my family and friends who have supported me all through this difficult time and I wish them and all your readers a very Happy Christmas and I hope my story gives them a little lift in these tough times for everyone."