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Wicklow teen Aisling Thompson is remaining positive despite being diagnosed with rare form of cancer

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Aisling Thompson Bray. Aisling Thompson (right) with her mum Verena, little sister Caoimhe and dog Apollo

Aisling Thompson Bray. Aisling Thompson (right) with her mum Verena, little sister Caoimhe and dog Apollo

Aisling Thompson Bray. Aisling Thompson (right) with her mum Verena, little sister Caoimhe and dog Apollo

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Bray teenager Aisling Thompson faces an uphill struggle as she battles with a rare type of cancer.

Aisling (17) has already lost almost all of her right lung to the disease and will have to endure yet another surgery in a few weeks time. 

When Aisling first became ill around 18 months ago, the Thompson family faced a lengthy struggle to get the correct diagnosis, which for mum Verena was a abject lesson in perseverance. 

Aisling’s illness began with mild symptoms of lethargy, headaches and occasional hand tingles, neither pointing strongly at cancer, also there was no history of cancer in the family.

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“I was extremely run down and I thought I was being a lazy teenager!”, said Aisling.

When her illness started she was 15 going on 16 it was initially thought Aisling was suffering from a virus. Her mum said some of Aisling’s friends thought she was making her symptoms up. Verena said: “Through COVID and lockdown, Aisling was like the forgotten child. She lost out on so much.”

Aisling said that she found the Covid lockdowns particularly difficult. 

“It wasn’t good for anyone but I obviously wasn’t well and I was very lonely.”

Aisling’s present diagnosis was slow in forming and remains under review. She receives targeted treatment that is to a degree experimental.

At the beginning of her illness, doctors at Crumlin Children’s Hospital initially thought Aisling’s condition had a neurological cause. After a week-long stay in Crumlin, and lots of tests, a virus was offered as the diagnoses. Verena was told it could take months for her daughter to feel better. Because of Covid they didn’t get to go back to Crumlin for a follow up visit.

Aisling said that the staff at the hospital were excellent and very thorough. “It was fine, they were all very good. They did run a lot of tests but didn’t have any answers. The virus diagnosis seemed to be a guess.”

When Aisling turned 16 she had to transition out from children’s care into adult hospital care, to be treated as a juvenile. Verena said: “She went from a children’s hospital without a cancer diagnosis into the adult service where she eventually got a diagnosis.”

Three weeks after her 16th birthday Aisling’s health took a downturn and was admitted to St Vincent’s through A&E. A routine chest X-ray revealed a mass on her lung identified as a sarcoma. She had to have surgery, and most of her right lung was removed. The rest of the lung is being removed in the coming weeks.

Aisling said: “When they told us there was something there (in my lung), they downplayed it saying it was a hazy mass. We didn’t know for a few weeks how serious it was. They did not tell us for a while.”

Verena explains that Aisling’s cancer is extremely rare, almost an unknown entity in the medical world. It is known as a low grade cancer and while this could sound reassuring, it is far from it. Aisling’s cancer is resistant to being killed off and can only be put to sleep with drugs. There are ongoing issues with identifying the most appropriate treatment and how to progress it, but Verena is fighting hard to ensure the best care for her daughter.

“She will just have to take each day and live each day, because one day she will become immune to those drugs. Her prognosis long term is that she will continue her treatment until the treatment stops working, which could be months, or years.” At present Aisling visits St Vincent’s one day a week for observation and blood-work.

Verena’s career working with special needs children in Blackrock, has been put on hold to deal with the situation. Verena is incredibly proud of Aisling: “She’s amazing, amazing. She even went on a first date last night. Aisling is an absolute fighter and lives for each day.”

Aishling is conscious of the impact her illness has on the house. “It’s really hard, because everyone gets really emotional, really easily, my mam especially. It is especially hard on my little sister Caoimhe (10) because she’s so young it’s really hard for her to process. But she is doing so well, and she’s so supportive, and funny. She helps me get through the day by keeping me happy.”

Verena and Aisling are keen to highlight the cracks that many 16 to 18 year olds can fall through when they transition from children’s to adult healthcare.

Both are firm believers in people being able to say if they feel unwell, and to keep saying it to ensure you get a correct diagnosis.

Verena said the experience has taught her to be persistent and to ask questions and ask again if you don’t understand or don’t get the correct diagnosis. “Even when you are being told you are not the expert, be loud. All parents should take note to be as vocal as possible when it comes to fighting for the correct care for their kids.”

Aisling said her illness has shown her the value of living life to the full. “My advice to anyone ill, or going through cancer, is to try to be positive. There is no point in being negative. Moping around with make you feel bad, so look on the bright side. There is no point in being alive if you’re not living.”

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. 


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