Aaron McMahon – Terminally Ill and just Months to Live but …

By Claire O’Donoghue

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Shanagarry teenager, Aaron McMahon is 17 years old and in the fight of his life, a fight that means he will need the entire of East Cork and beyond in his corner. Aaron has a very rare form of cancerous brain tumour called a Chordoma. According to the Chordoma Foundation, it is "a rare type of cancer that occurs in the bones of the skull base and spine. It is part of a group of malignant bone and soft tissue tumours called sarcomas. Chordomas account for about 3% of all bone tumours and about 20% of primary spinal tumours. They are the most common tumour of the sacrum and cervical spine. A Chordoma tumour usually grows slowly, often without symptoms at first, and then might cause symptoms for years before doctors find it". This would seem to be the case in Aaron's situation. For a few years he had been seeing some doctors and consultants for unexplained headaches, to no avail. However, at the time of his Junior Cert in 2016 his complaints got worse. Exam stress, being a teenager is what most would think, given that no medical reason had been discovered. "It was one particular February morning last year" his father Paul said, "that Aaron didn’t want to go to school as his headaches were intense. He did go in but by 11am the school rang for him to be taken home”. The family contacted their local GP Dr Sean McCarthy, and another appointment was made with consultant, Dr. James Ryan in the Mater Hospital, who examined Aaron and performed some tests. Within 2 weeks of that date, Aaron was diagnosed with a brain tumour and on the operating table at Beaumont Hospital undergoing brain surgery to remove it. They couldn't get it all. After that, it was off to Germany for 9 weeks of Photon Beam Therapy which was to stop what was left of the tumour growing. Aaron returned back to Shanagarry last July. When he returned to Germany last November for his first review all seemed stable. He had a number of stays in hospital since August last year but in February 2018, Aaron had headaches and vision issues, so he was back to his GP and admitted to Mater Hospital for another MRI. The news was devastating. Aaron had months, maybe weeks left. There was nothing more that could be done. Paul says “How do you tell your son it’s not good news? It was horrific watching your boy cry and shake, no words can describe the pain both Gail and I felt breaking the news to Aaron.”

Paul explains he had reached out to the Chordoma Foundation for knowledge and help. Paul had booked a trip to a conference months ago to meet other families and try to understand what research and treatments are out there. Since Aaron’s terminal prognosis, the McMahon family were trying to remain optimistic. A long flight to Boston full of fear and anxiety but HOPE. Paul and Gail were determined to seek opinions from some the world’s best neurosurgeons. Aaron was talking and asking about the end of his life. He was angry and terrified. Aaron and his parents Paul McMahon from Campion Insurance Midleton and his mother Gail took all his medical files, MRI’s going back to 2013 to this conference where they met experts in Chordoma. Upon returning home from Boston, the McMahons prayed and waited for news. “Imagine trying to go about your daily life with this anxiety and worry” Paul says. However his optimism and confidence grew, following a number of intense meetings in Boston, that there just might be a possibility.

Last Thursday week, Aaron got a green light. The American medical team, following a complete review of all the data and scans, can do an operation. Aaron has a small time frame to prepare for major surgery on his skull. A glimmer of light in the tunnel of despair for the family who, just 6 weeks ago were told there was no hope and their boy would be dead by September. The surgery deposit alone will cost $80,000. The costs of flights, accommodation, food, medical costs, etc, “Where do you stop to save a child?” said Paul, “what do you do as a parent, how do you tell your wife it will be ok? how do you assure Aaron’s brothers this will happen and as a family we will keep fighting?” Aaron made it happen really; he posted the news on his facebook page. An incredibly brave move by a young boy who just wants to be in school, go to college, learn how to drive and BE NORMAL again!!!
Never did Aaron think that hundreds of families in Cork, all over Ireland and now all over the globe would listen and help him to try again.

You’d do your best wouldn’t you, if it was your son, your brother, your friend, your neighbour? Aaron McMahon must be that to all of us now if he’s to stand a chance. There are many fundraisers going on at the moment for him, organised by friends and businesses of the locality. This Saturday 21 April from 10am –4pm there will be a flag day for Aaron on Midleton's Main Street. Sunday 22 April, Fusion Hair Design at Market Green is holding a Wash & Blowdry / Nails/ Coffee day with all proceeds going to the fundraiser for the urgent life-saving surgery. Straight blowdrys will be just €12.50 and a file and polish €8. To book call 021 4630689. There will also be a raffle and tickets are available now at Fusion salon and Ali’s Restaurant for just €2 a strip. Any business that contributes a spot prize or helps out in any way, will have their name put into a hat to win a full page advert in the East Cork Journal worth €800! On Saturday, April 28 at 11am, Fanta will be walking in full fireman’s gear and boots from Shanagarry to Midleton with members of the Irish Navy and Army. To walk with Fanta you will need a high-vis vest, and some will be available on the day. Ireland’s Got Talent winners RDC will dance him up the street of Midleton to Market Green
Do your part; throw a bucket on the counter or in the staff canteen room at work for donations. It will all add up. Do something to contribute to this in any small way that you can, Aaron is almost out of time and you can help. €50, €20, €10, €5, €2 - what is the value on a child’s life? This is a LIFE or DEATH situation for Aaron McMahon, a 17 year old child.

Family friend, Patrick Beausang, has organised a very special evening - a night kayak event Friday 20 April at 8pm, leaving from Whitegate Rowing Club. An extraordinary night is assured with such a unique idea and setting, complete with live music. Aaron does not want sadness and wants help, a bit of laughter and hopefully even good weather. If you have your own kayak please do bring it along and donate €10 or more if you can. With the help of local adventure centres, kayaks can be provided on the night at a donation cost of €20. The Army Surplus Store has offered headlamps which can be purchased for the cause for €10. There is a tremendous urgency in the fundraising as Aaron needs to have the money by the end of April to book the operation, and fundraising will continue during May / start of June for it to have any hope of success.
Time is running out. Please come along to the Night Kayak event or show your support at any of the other fundraisers for Aaron. You can also help by going to www.gofundme/aaronmcmahon.com and making a donation or putting a donation in a bucket which are now out in local businesses and companies. Requests for a donation bucket can be made, see the Facebook page Aaron's Hope for more details. Please support this child in our community. He's just 17 years old, he's one of our own, a son of Cork, of Ireland and our children deserve to live.

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