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Katie O’Brien: Norfolk founder of breast cancer support group

PUBLISHED: 11:04 20 June 2013 | UPDATED: 11:04 20 June 2013

OBIT - Kate O'Brien

OBIT - Kate O'Brien

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A Norfolk founder of a breast cancer support group, Katie O’Brien, who has died aged 83, later campaigned nationally to help fellow suffers.

She launched a telephone helpline, which was called Bosom Friends, in her home town of Attleborough, in 1992. Within 18 months, a team of 90 helpers was answering phones and helping more than 240 men and women dealing with the effects of breast cancer. Two years, they were taking calls from around 700 people.

The success of Bosom Friends led to invitations to campaign for cancer sufferers nationally. In 1995 she represented Norfolk on the executive of a national organisation which campaigned on behalf of breast cancer sufferers.

The National Action Plan for Breast Cancer organised a petition calling for more research, better care and more opportunities for research training.

Her personal experience with breast cancer, which resulted in a mastectomy, also encouraged her to spend most of her retirement with husband Jim to raise money for ill young people.

They set up the Katie O’Brien Trust for children with special needs in East Anglia and by 1991 they had already raised £7,000 for young cancer sufferers, by holding car boot sales.

When she went to London to present a charity cheque to the Royal London Hospital to help children with polio, it was just a fortnight after her major breast surgery. She later told the EDP: “I probably shouldn’t have made the journey,” but added that the important thing was that “a 10-year-old polio patient will be walking in time for Christmas”.

After living in Attleborough for some years, she later moved to Sandford House in Dereham.

A memorial service was held at St Faith’s Crematorium on Thursday, June 13, at 10.15am.

Michael Pollitt


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