Monday 22 October 2018

'We are so grateful' - Irish teen battling terminal illness gets date for life-saving US surgery

Aaron McMahon (17) pictured with his parents Paul and Gail Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Aaron McMahon (17) pictured with his parents Paul and Gail Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Aaron McMahon (17) pictured with his parents Paul and Gail Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Aaron McMahon (17) pictured with his parents Paul and Gail Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Aaron McMahon
Aaron McMahon (17) pictured with his parents Paul and Gail Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

An Irish teenager who is battling terminal cancer has been given a date for his potentially life-saving treatment in the US.

Aaron McMahon (17) from Shanagarry, Co Cork was diagnosed with a rare chordoma brain tumour in February 2017.

After undergoing treatment, both in Ireland and Germany, the teenager was told that his condition is terminal.

However, Aaron was offered a lifeline after he discovered a specialist chordoma treatment in the US.

Aaron McMahon
Aaron McMahon

People from across Ireland and the world, rallied together to help raise money for Aaron to travel to Pittsburgh to undergo the treatment at a starting cost of €100,000.

This week, Aaron and his mum Gail and dad Paul announced that they will be travelling to the US on June 9 to prepare for the life-changing surgery.

"The fundraising and support from all over Ireland, America, Australia, Norway, has made this possible and we are so grateful.

"Your ongoing support will be needed for Aaron's care which can only be provided in America."

Aaron McMahon (17) pictured with his parents Paul and Gail Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Aaron McMahon (17) pictured with his parents Paul and Gail Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Aaron added that he would like to acknowledge the support from the Gavin Glynn Foundation, who have booked and paid for flights and accommodation in America.

He also thanked the Chordoma Foundation in America and his doctors in Ireland who "have been a great support".

"Thank you so very much for your support and help," the family said in a statement.

Our whole world fell apart

Speaking previously to Independent.ie, Aaron's dad Paul said that the family's world was turned upside down when Aaron was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

"It was devastating. At that time, it wasn't terminal. There was hope that an operation could be done and could fix it. He had further treatment in Germany and everything appeared to be stable.

"Aaron's tumour has unfortunately started growing again and it is terminal."

Paul recalled the traumatic moment he had to tell his son that his cancer had returned, and that there was nothing more that could be done.

"When his doctor called me, I knew it wasn't good. He said there was nothing more that could be done for Aaron. My whole world fell apart. The doctor said that he couldn't handle telling Aaron because he didn't want to give him any more bad news but I had to tell him. Aaron has been aware of his diagnosis every step of the way. There are no words to describe how I felt telling Aaron. It was devastating."

The family refused to give up hope and made contact with the Chordoma Foundation in the US.

"We needed to raise €100,000 for a deposit to get into the treatment in the US. It's the only treatment out there for Aaron but it gives us hope. There are currently 42 other patients undergoing the treatment and they are responding well. The offer we got from the US expires on May 5 and without the money, Aaron would die. We tried to sell our family home and our car, but we didn't have the time to wait for the money to come through because that takes too long.

"Last night, we received the news that we raised the €100,000 deposit for the treatment. It was like Italia '90 all over again. Aaron was at the cinema and we rang him to tell him. The whole theatre erupted. I can't even describe the feeling of joy and relief. It gives us hope again. We cannot thank the public enough for their incredible kindness."

Speaking to Independent.ie, 17-year-old Aaron said he was feeling "tired and weak".

"I'm looking forward to going over to the US, but it's going into the unknown. I have to go, it's the only option. It's the only place where I can get the operation. I just want to put it behind me and get on with it."

The 17-year-old said he wants to return to playing sport and going back to school.

"My friends have been great ... but some of them don't know what to do. It's hard on everyone. Sometimes I want to go out but I don't have any energy. Other times, I do go out and I get tired within five minutes. It's hard. It's stopped a lot of stuff for me and has bound me to home. It's headwrecking."

Aaron said the hardest part is seeing his family in pain.

"It's really hard seeing my family go through it. I can take all the pain, but I can't take the pain of seeing my family upset," he said.

The 17-year-old said he dreams of doing woodwork.

"I keep getting numbness in my hands, so that kind of stops me. But hopefully after the operation, I will be able to build up my strength again."

He urged other young people to not take their lives for granted.

"I always give out to the lads when they have an excuse to miss training because they don't want to do it. I miss it. I haven't been able to do sport in nearly two years. I'm lost without sport and school. Sitting at home 24-hours is terrible."

Aaron said he was blown away by the support he received by the public.

"It's really nice to see all the people who got behind me. It's overwhelming. I don't have the words to thanks people for it."

His mother Gail said that seeing her youngest son battle cancer was "horrendous".

"It has been unbelievable to be able to take care of him and be with him through this. You have to mind him as a mother. Even before I had him, he was so precious to me. I miscarried with twins before Aaron so when I found out I was pregnant with this guy, I protected him before he was even born. He's been my baby that I really took care of since his first day. He was the best baby I had. I have been looking back of photos of him as a baby over the last few months and he had beautiful curls.

"It's been horrendous what he has been going through, but also he has been so courageous and strong.

"I like when he tells me that I can cuddle in next to him ... and we listen to our songs together. He's my baby and I know there is a big battle still ahead of us in the US, but I want to keep him for a long time ahead of me. There is no woman who is going to come in and take my baby away from me. He's not for marriage. He's staying with me for life.

"When I was told he was terminal, no. I'm not going to let him go. I'm going to keep him with me because we have been through too much together. We fought together. We're on a journey and we're not giving up on it yet. No, never."

She said that while they reached their target for the deposit, there is still a lot fundraising to be done.

"It's amazing what we have reached and that will allow Aaron to get the surgery in the US, but it won't cover living costs or his flights or any of his treatments down the road. He'll have to have reviews and check-ups in the US, so we have a long road still ahead of us.

"We can't thank the public enough for all their amazing help. They have given us hope and given Aaron a chance at life."

You can donate to Aaron's GoFundMe here or at https://www.gofundme.com/aaronmcmahon

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