“You’re Not Alone” an anthology in aid of MacMillan Cancer Care has been released. A paperback version is also available! Get your copy now!
Twenty-seven writers from around the world, including myself have entered an assortment of short stories for your pleasure, show your support by liking the new page on Facebook and expressing an interest in buying the book.
Clad in a black leather jacket and an eye-patch, I am sure you are wondering whether he is real or he is a movie character. Whatever your answer was last Sunday when I made this post, let me introduce Liam Ryan. He is real. Two weeks ago, Liam attended a funeral of a friend and someone who had 12 years ago thought Liam would ‘go’ before him.
“We want to forget about dying. But we are all going to die. It is the worst kept secret in the world. The funeral reminded me again of how we can all be so busy living, we forget about dying. Dying is real and I’m so glad I have another chance at living”, Liam said.
Twelve years ago, doctors discovered a cancer that took over part of his cheek bone and the sinus. Liam’s close friends and family and even the doctors thought that Liam only weeks left to live.
“It began with a few headaches. Just the regular sinus headaches but they did not stop so I decided to have it checked at our local doctor”, Liam said.
The doctor’s visit ended up taking two days. The shocking news; Liam was the second person with one of the worst Head and Neck Cancer ever seen. The first had already died in a matter of weeks. Liam’s condition was diagnosed as Squamacell Carcinoma which also included a lot of skin cancers. Simon Rogers, Liam’s consulting doctor told Liam, there were only two cases of Head & Neck cancer in the North of England every year but cases as severe as Liam’s only occurred every 30 to 40 years. Liam had stage 4 tumor in the middle of his head.
Liam was 40, healthy, fit, working successfully as an architect in a small town in Ireland. He had just completed his sixth marathon.
“I saw the end of my life appeared right in front of me. I simply had weeks to live”.
Liam was told very few hospitals in the world, could offer any hope to a cases like his. Liam just wanted to live. He fought the cancer with his will. Eventually, impressed by his fighting spirit, Professor Simon Rogers and his team in Liverpool decided to offer Liam a chance, a chance they themselves did not believe Liam could make it through. They told Liam he had a 5% chance to survive. Serious Head & Neck cancer required complex treatment and often kills the patient before the cancer does.
“If I was still alive after surgery I was likely to be without my sight, my speech, my hearing, my mobility, my brain function or any combination of all five, ” Liam said.
“Survival was all that was on the horizon. Anything beyond that would be a bonus. None of that mattered then. I just wanted to be alive. If I was alive I was winning, and cancer was losing”.
Liam underwent a 12-hour operation.
In the surgery, doctors removed half of the roof of his mouth, top half of his teeth and most of his cheekbone. He had seven weeks of radical chemo-radiotherapy. Then, Liam suffered another blow. In between his treatments he contracted meningitis and a deep vein thrombosis and nearly died. All these has been put behind Liam’s life now. Although Liam can now only open his mouth about half an inch, he can still speak perfectly and continues to do all the things he considers normal.
“My amazing survival has now been outdone by my even more incredible recovery. I am working, talking, running and functioning again just as I did before. Apart from my eyepatch, it is almost as if I never had cancer.”
Liam’s doctors were simply amazed. Liam said through the work of the doctors and their great work, he has become one of the greatest cancer survivors of all time.
“From nowhere, I have become noteworthy.”
In 2012, on the tenth anniversary of his new life after cancer, Liam ran his first marathon and wrote a book. He said the book, was not just for cancer patients but for anyone “who has a mountain to climb”.
“I have become the living proof that nothing is for certain. I have been given a second life and with it comes an opportunity to encourage and inspire”.
Liam lives in Ballina/Killaloe with his wife Pam and their three children.