Our brilliant colleague Stuart Pierce has been given the all-clear from a rare form of nose cancer – and everyone at the Antrim store where he works is so inspired by him that they've all helped raise more than £10,000 for the cancer centre which treated him.
Stuart, who's 26, has worked at the store for 10 years and says the response from his colleagues has been overwhelming.
When he was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer only one other person in Northern Ireland had it. He had 14 weeks of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiotherapy, and kept in close contact with his friends at the store throughout his treatment – and they all leapt into action to raise money for Friends of the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital.
Stuart said: "The whole store has supported me, from the top down. When I was diagnosed I went off work right away because I wasn't in good shape, but Asda have been unbelievable to me. I couldn't compliment the store enough, and my boss.
"Living so close to the store meant that during bad days or when there were tough times quite often I would find myself in here as I have a lot friends there. It was nice to be able to come into here to take my mind off things, to socialise with a few people and have a cup of coffee and something like that.
"There hasn't been anyone who hasn't done their bit to help with the fundraising. I tried very hard to keep the focus off me and onto the charity, but colleagues said they were doing it for me and that means a lot.
"To raise that amount is unbelievable. You don't really think you will ever achieve that sort of figure. We said from the start that we wouldn't set a target but as time went on that big round figure of £10,000 looked quite nice, so we thought we'd push for it. I'm really, really proud.
Colleagues, led by the store's community champion Barbara Logan, took part in a range of fundraising activities such as the Belfast City Marathon, Mud Mayhem, coffee mornings, table quizzes and running a spinathon in the store. The appeal also received top-up grants from the Asda Foundation.
Barbara said: "Stuart is a great fella and he's very popular here. It's fantastic that he's go the all-clear – brilliant news.
“I'm so proud that everyone in store – both colleagues and customers – got behind our fundraising. Stuart wanted to put something back to the Cancer Care Centre and we were only too happy to support him.
"The Friends of the Cancer Centre does amazing work and makes such a difference to the lives of people living here in Northern Ireland through the wide-range of support services it offers. We have seen this first-hand with all the help they have given Stuart."
Stuart, who works part-time in the store's bakery, was diagnosed with cancer in June 2018.
He said: "Basically I had what I thought was a swollen gland that just wouldn't go away. So they did various and tests and gave various tablets incase it was from a cold or a flu or something like that, but when it wouldn't go away they did scans and biopsies. Fairly quickly they found something there, but that was secondary so they had to find the root of it. Through cameras they found out it was cancer at the top of my nose.
"It was a really rare form of cancer. There was only me and one other person in Northern Ireland had it at the time.
"It came as a complete shock. Finding out I had cancer was absolutely horrible. By the time we were told we sort of thought that something wasn't right, but then you still have to wait to find out if its treatable or that it's really bad. Those couple of weeks are probably the hardest bit. When you actually know, then it's just about putting your head around it and getting ready."
In August of that year Stuart began 14 weeks of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiotherapy.
He said: "You do hear some awful stories, I may be wasn't as bad as that. The last sort of a week and a half was pretty tough, but up until then it was pretty manageable. Not pleasant but manageable.
"Thankfully we are more or less all clear. They is still something lingering abut in my neck, but there's nothing cancerous there. There's a lot of check ups and a lot of appointments, but we are all clear as far as cancer is concerned."
Stuart says the Friends of the Cancer Centre, which has been running for 35 years, is "a great charity" who "always went above and beyond in awful times."
Based at the heart of the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, the charity funds lifesaving and life-changing projects that make a real and lasting difference to the lives of thousands of local people affected by cancer.
Stuart said: "I'd been going there for a while and you do seem to see what's going on around you and all the work that they are doing and I kind of had in my head that I wanted to do something. I want ed to give something back.
"After talking to Barbara and Robert Ryans, the store manager, it was decided then that we would fundraise for the Friends of the Cancer Centre as our store's charity for the year."
Robert says everyone at the store is really proud of Stuart.
He said: "Stuart is a very popular colleague and a very good colleague who will alway put himself out, day in day out.
"He was the catalyst for our fundraising for the Friends of the Cancer Centre which we adopted as our charity of the year.
"The response from colleagues was absolutely amazing and it was a really good way of the colleagues coming together for the community. Colleagues were supporting the appeal on behalf of Stuart and of other family members who've had treatment at the cancer centre."
Ana Wilkinson, fundraising manager for the Friends of the Cancer Centre, said: “It costs just £25 to fund one hour of nursing care from a Friends of the Cancer Centre specialist nurse, so this donation could enable us to provide care to 408 local people, supporting them and their families through an incredibly difficult time.
“I would like to say a special thank you to Barbara, for championing Friends of the Cancer Centre and to everyone who has supported the store's fundraising efforts. We rely entirely on the generosity of the local community and all the money donated stays in Northern Ireland, directly benefitting patients and their families so we simply couldn’t do this without their support.”
This year, the store's chosen charity is Alzheimer's Society and colleagues are taking part in a fundraising abseil in March.