Monday 27 January 2020

Former Rose of Tralee and cancer survivor Elysha Brennan reveals new battle with serious illness

Elysha Brennan. Photo: Frank McGrath
Elysha Brennan. Photo: Frank McGrath Newsdesk Newsdesk

THE 2015 Rose of Tralee Elysha Brennan - who was previously diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 19 - has revealed that she is battling another serious illness.

Writing in her 'Now U C me...' blog, the 23-year-old said that she was diagnosed with ulcerative collitis - an inflammatory bowel disease - last June, and has recently started a new drug in the hope of avoiding major surgery to remove her entire colon.

"Dignity and any sense of self consciousness were quickly forgotten when the symptoms became so bad I was admitted to hospital this week for 8 long, challenging days," she writes. 

"Symptoms of UC can include severe crippling tummy pain, running to the loo one too many times a day to mention, losing blood, feeling tired & lack of interest or wanting to eat. I had lost 3/4 of a stone & my body was in starvation mode. I was afraid to eat for fear of feeling sick after & suffering with the pain."

Elysha, who won the Rose of Tralee title in August 2015 as the Meath Rose, is a student of medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons.

She is is also a cancer survivor having overcome Hodgkin's Lymphoma after being diagnosed shortly before her Leaving Cert.

Winning moment: Elysha Brennan on stage with Dáithi Ó Sé
Winning moment: Elysha Brennan on stage with Dáithi Ó Sé

"I have had a lot of time to reflect this week & being 100% honest with you , I have had those moments of “why me”," she writes. 

"Why do I have to go through this? How is this fair? Have I not fought my battle & carried my cross? After my little wobbly & feeling a tad sorry for myself, the fighting spirit that was embedded & instilled in me at 19 kicked in.

"It was 4 years ago when I discovered what it means to dig deep, gather your inner strength & fight like hell. I refuse to let circumstances define me or who I am in this world. I have far too many things to do, places to see & experiences to have to let this to stop me. I believe with all my heart that every experience (good & bad) holds within it a blessing, room for learning & growth."

And she said that she is putting her faith in a new drug called Vedoluzimab which she started earlier this month.

"I started this drug on Friday & was genuinely more scared with this infusion going into my veins than I was getting chemotherapy.

"Maybe it’s because I know more now about side effects & all the weird & wonderful complications from my medical studies? I will be on this drug for the foreseeable future as we try and kick this UC into remission.

"It’s a relatively new “wonder” drug and basically it’s action is to dampen down your overactive immune cell response to all your poor little colon cells that are getting absolutely battered. I’m back in 2 weeks for another go of Vedoluzimab, then 4 weeks, 8 weeks and so on…

"How do I feel now? Happy & thankful to be home. Reminded of the value of the simple things in life like seeing your dog and sleeping in your own bed. Determined to tackle this head on."

You can read more from Elysha's blog here

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