Wednesday 26 June 2019

Colin 'Jango' Fleming embracing his second chance of life

Christmas comes early for Colin 'Jango' Fleming as he prepares for bone marrow transplant four months after being told he had weeks to live

Colin ‘Jango’ Fleming with the cheque for €30,700 which he helped raise for the Aoibheann’s Pink Tie charity
Colin ‘Jango’ Fleming with the cheque for €30,700 which he helped raise for the Aoibheann’s Pink Tie charity
Colin ‘Jango’ Fleming pictured with his wife Schalan Fleming and children Jack, Charlie and Annie

Sara Gahan

This weekend Colin 'Jango' Fleming from Coolgreany will celebrate Christmas Day a little early surrounded by his family and friends, something he did not think would happen after being told in August that he only had a few weeks to live.

Diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in April, the father of three will receive a bone marrow transplant on December 18 that will help give him a second chance at life.

Speaking to this newspaper, Colin said he thought it was the end for him a week after receiving the devastating news in August. He fell extremely ill and was rushed to St James' Hospital in Dublin where he made a recovery that has left so many people speechless, with some describing him as a walking miracle.

'I can't explain it at all, I thought that was the end for me and I had accepted it,' said Colin. 'I can't see very well out of one eye, I had to hold my mouth to help me talk, I was skin and bone and using a wheelchair.'

Last week, Colin received a free transplant test to see how he is for the surgery. He had to get tests done such as a lumber puncture, heart, breathing and many others.

'Once I pass the test I will go into St James' on December 9 and receive the transplant on December 18,' said Colin. 'I have to go on a drug for a week beforehand to help my body adjust to the bone marrow once the transplant is done.'

Colin said he will also have to receive a week of chemo and radiation.

'There are a lot of complications once I get the transplant,' said Colin. 'After recovery I will be isolated or I could end up in intensive care. It could go either way.'

His donor is a nine out of ten match, which is very positive for Colin. He does not know where in the world it is coming from but is just so thankful to be given the chance.

Colin's wife Schalan said the family will move to Dublin after the transplant as Colin needs to be in a close radius of the hospital incase something drastic happens.

'We will stay up there for about eight weeks,' said Schalan. 'The Bone Marrow Trust can provide us with an apartment that is next to the hospital.'

After the transplant, there is a 50/50 chance of the leukaemia recurring again and 20 per cent chance he could end up in ICU. But once Colin reaches five years since transplant date, he is then fully clear of his illness.

'It is all about taken it day by day,' said Colin. 'I am so grateful to be given this opportunity as it was never a choice for me before because I wasn't well enough.'

Earlier in August he was told that the leukaemia had relapsed before he had the opportunity for the bone marrow transplant, which had been scheduled for September 11. The cancer was back in his blood as well as affecting the nerves in his brain so his eyes and mouth were not functioning as they would normally.

'I was given three options in August,' said Colin. 'First was do nothing and have two weeks to live. Number two was to have palliative chemo which would give me four to five weeks or the hardest option was to take an extremely high dosage of chemo, get a transplant and spend the rest of my time in hospital with only a five per cent chance of success.'

Colin went with the second option of palliative care, but one week later was rushed to St James' after becoming extremely ill.

During that time in St James' Hospital, counsellors paid Colin and Schalan a visit to prepare them in what they might say to their eldest child about his father passing away, Colin prepared memory boxes for his kids and had a personal diary where he kept all of his funeral arrangements.

Celebrities like Damien Dempsey, actor John Connors, Irish band the Riptide Movement and many Ireland soccer stars paid Colin a visit in hospital to inject him with some positivity to help him pull through his cancer.

'I wasn't afraid to die, I had accepted it but I didn't want to die alone so Schalan stayed with me the whole time,' said Colin. 'She slept for three solid weeks in a chair beside my bed.'

After the first two weeks in St James' Colin was still hanging on and that is when Schalan realised that 'he is after pulling through this'.

'I came off the morphine and other drugs. My bloods changed and I was in remission,' said Colin. 'The doctors are putting it down to the last round of chemo and treatment that it had finally kicked in and helped me to get my health and strength back.'

Colin said he puts it down to faith, healing, positivity and all the support he has received from the people of Gorey, Coolgreany and surrounding districts.

After recovering in St James', Colin began a fifth round of chemo in October because his bloods were so good.

'A fifth round is something that is never meant to be,' added Colin. 'You are suppose to get a maximum of four rounds.'

The fifth round of chemo was tough on Colin's body, who spent 25 days altogether in St James' receiving the treatment. He said he got five days of chemo and got to spend a day and a half back at home in Coolgreany with his family.

'This treatment was the hardest one I done,' said Colin. 'It was especially mentally tough because sometimes I had to spend time away from Schalan and the kids if they were sick because I wanted to be extra cautious.'

Colin will go to St James' on Sunday, December 9, to begin preparations for his transplant procedure. The Fleming family plan to return to Gorey at the beginning of March.

Colin said a massive thank you to the people of Coolgreany; the people of Gorey town and surrounding areas; his wife Schalan; his sister Janet; and all his family and friends for the tremendous support.

Gorey Guardian