Thursday 25 December 2014

'Our son was just two years old when he had his first brain tumour'

Danny Curran's parents face an agonising wait to discover if their child is cancer-free

Arlene Harris

Published 28/05/2014 | 02:30

Battle: Danny Curran at home in Clonee with his parents Brian and Aine, who face an agonising wait for his results. Photo: Ronan Lang
Battle: Danny Curran at home in Clonee with his parents Brian and Aine, who face an agonising wait for his results. Photo: Ronan Lang
Danny Curran

When Danny Curran was two years old, he suddenly began to lose his balance regularly and feel nauseous every other day.

Danny's parents, Brian and Áine, knew something wasn't right with their little boy, so they brought him to Dublin's Temple Street Hospital.

Within minutes, doctors there suspected that Danny had a brain tumour and they sent him for a CT scan. His parents were devastated when the results came back and Danny was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Two days later, the toddler underwent a marathon nine- hour operation. Although the surgery was deemed a success and Danny spent a year in remission, that was not the end of the complications for the two-year-old and his family.

"In June 2012, we noticed that Danny's balance was off because he started swaying and walking into door frames," says Brian who works as car salesman. "The doctor couldn't find anything wrong so treated him for constipation as he was feeling sick a lot. Then he had some blood tests done, but these also revealed nothing.

"We were utterly horrified when the CT scan revealed lesions on his brain. Áine managed to keep it together but I just lost it completely.

"I was totally devastated that something like this could happen to our perfectly healthy little boy.

"I can't really describe what we went through for those first few days – it was every parent's worst nightmare," says Brian.

"We stood outside the operating theatre for nine hours waiting for news and were in such a bad place mentally but just had to hope that it would all be okay.

"When the surgeon told us the operation was a success, we were obviously overjoyed but knew that a few weeks later, he would have to start six  months of high-dose chemotherapy; which turned out to be really horrendous.

"Danny was really sick and went down to 12kg so was just skin and bone because he couldn't keep anything down at all. He spent four months in hospital and another two going in and out for treatment before finally the chemo was over.

"He was discharged on December 23, 2012, but got a high fever on Christmas Day and had to go back into hospital again. Then he developed a bad case of shingles and was admitted for three weeks but by February last year scans revealed that he had the all-clear.

"Although the surgery was a success, he was left very weak with a permanent balance problem. But it was a small price to pay for the fact that he was alive."

After their son got the green light from his medical team, Brian and Áine (who also have a two-year-old daughter called Anna) decided to emigrate to Australia where they would attempt to put the past behind them. But in February of this year, while Brian was on a fact-finding trip to that country, he received a shocking phone call from Danny's oncologist.

"I had just arrived in Australia where I was making arrangements for our move, when the oncologist rang and said the results of Danny's last scan revealed four more tumours on his brain," he says.

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"I was utterly devastated and returned home straight away as Danny had to go back to Temple Street for another marathon operation.

"This time it was even more horrendous as we couldn't believe the cancer had come back.

"It took 10 hours to get all of the cells off his brain and then he had to wait another four weeks before starting radiotherapy.

"Throughout the whole ordeal, Danny has been amazing. He knows his head is 'broken' and doctors are trying to fix it, but that's all he understands.

"Although the treatment has been really difficult for him, he has always remained happy and uncomplaining. During the radiotherapy course, he dressed up in a different outfit, like Spiderman or Batman every day.

"My company was fantastic and gave me all the time off I needed, while Áine took a carers' leave of absence from her job as a social-care worker. Our family and friends have also been brilliant and have given us so much support.

"But at this point, there is nothing we can do but wait, hope and pray.

"Everything is on hold because Danny can't be scanned again until June as the radiotherapy is still active and, until then, we have no idea what the results will be. If they are not clear, there is nothing else that can be done for him.

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"But we can't even begin to contemplate that right now, so instead were are trying to keep ourselves busy and believe that our little boy will get better and go on to live a happy life."

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE 'GO GREY FOR MAY' CAMPAIGN, VISIT WWW.CHILDHOODCANCER.IE

Be aware

* There are currently almost 1,250 people living with brain tumours in Ireland

* The aim of Brain Tumour Awareness Month is to raise awareness of symptoms to encourage early diagnosis

* Every year around 350 people in Ireland are diagnosed with the potentially fatal disease, and about 50 of these are children

* The survival rate for children is higher than that experienced by adults but serious cognitive side-effects create ongoing needs

Possible warning signs

Headaches (often worse in the morning)

Vomiting (usually in the morning) or feeling sick

Fits (seizures)

Feeling very irritated or losing interest in day-to-day things

Eye problems, such as abnormal eye movements, cross-eye, drooping eyelid, blurring or double vision

Feeling very tired much more quickly than usual

Feeling extremely sleepy (drowsy) for no reason

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