Derek was away with his wife celebrating their 25th Wedding Anniversary when he started to feel very unwell.
“As soon as we arrived home my wife contacted the doctor on call service and asked them to come to the house. The doctor discovered a large swelling in my abdomen, and I saw the expression on her face change. She gave me a letter and told me to go straight to A&E right away.
I got up to A&E in Connolly Hospital around 8pm, and I was seen to immediately and tests were carried out. At 4am the doctor there explained to me that I would need emergency surgery to put in a colostomy bag as I had stage four liver and bowel cancer, I was in a state of shock. As it was during the pandemic, I was in the hospital on my own and I couldn’t bring myself to tell my wife the news over the phone. When my wife was allowed into see me four days later I told her the prognosis, she was shocked but said together as a family we would get through this and we were all there to help, we would conquer it.
When I was strong enough I started my chemotherapy journey in Beaumont hospital. In the next few weeks I was referred up to the Mater to meet with the liver consultant John Conneely.
Up to this point, the outlook wasn’t good but John was very positive. He warned me that it was going to be a big surgery and that I would need to complete the course of chemotherapy first. He also explained that he and another surgeon from the Mater Hospital, Ailín Rogers, would use robotic technology to preform both surgeries concurrently. In doing this, the recovery time would be reduced. John put our minds at ease and explained the surgery, the risks and the recovery in a very easy to understand and friendly manner.
I started on chemotherapy again shortly after that and luckily I didn’t have too many side effects. I had a portacath inserted in my chest to enable the oncology team to administer the treatment as I had one day of Chemotherapy in hospital and two days at home. I had my final session in December 2021 and the surgery was booked for early January 2022. I had a CT scan prior to the surgery, I was told the good news that the chemotherapy had shrunk three of the tumours and killed off the other two, which was great news to hear.
A week later, I went into the Mater for the surgery. When I woke up the next day, one of the consultant’s team told me that my surgery went well and that it was one of the first dual bowel and liver resections performed with robotics in the country. The team kept my wife in the loop and rang her after the operation to tell her how it went which was very comforting for her as no visitors were still not allowed due to COVID.
The team were able to remove all of my tumours at the time and I’ve been monitored since. This year, the doctors identified two spots on my liver and I have been undergoing chemotherapy this winter to treat those. Next step is an MRI and then a decision will be made on the course of treatment, which could involve another liver resection.
We would like to thank everyone from the consultants, to the Oncology team, the wonderful nursing staff who work tirelessly and also the staff who sometimes go unnoticed, porters, admin staff, catering staff and everyone in between.”
Derek, Co Dublin