Cancer-free: Young teacher embraces life after nightmare year
Contributed by Brian Hyland, Newry Reporter
Last month, Ronan Gregory received the phone call he had been waiting twelve months for and which marked the end of a nightmare year. The 25-year-old Cullaville man was told he was cancer-free.
As the words were spoken to him down the phone, the young teacher felt like he was reclaiming his life.
“It was unbelievable,” said Ronan. “I was just thinking I can now get my life back on track. Last summer I had to cancel my holiday because I was going through treatment, I couldn’t work because of treatment. I couldn’t do anything.
“During the treatment, I sat in the house all week knowing that on Friday I was going in for chemo and going to be sick for the whole weekend until Monday. So it’s great to get back to normality. I’m back teaching and living my life again.”
Ronan was training to be a teacher in Lancaster when, in January last year, he began feeling a pain in his chest. When he returned home a few days later, he went to the Emergency Department in Daisy Hill and was told it was simply a pulled muscle.
He returned to England to continue his training, but two weeks later his consultant phoned him.
“The doctor said they had looked at my scan again and found something in my chest,” Ronan recalled. “I asked what it was and he said he couldn’t really tell me over the phone. I asked him if it was serious. He said it could be sinister. I told him that I wasn’t home for two weeks and when did he need me home. He said we need you home tomorrow if you can.”
The following day Ronan caught a flight home. He met his consultant and was told there was a chance that the tumour in his chest could be lymphoma – the fifth most common form of cancer in the UK. However, a subsequent biopsy ruled lymphoma out and Ronan was told the tumour was likely benign.
He had to wait until May for surgery to remove the tumour as he specifically required a heart surgeon because it was right next to his heart. Once removed, doctors carried out further tests and established that Ronan did in fact have lymphoma. He began six-month chemotherapy treatment in June, which meant his teaching career, due to begin in September, had to be put on hold.
“It was boring sitting at home,” said Ronan.
“I’m a very active person and I was training to be a teacher, but I couldn’t do anything. In September I was a qualified teacher, but I had to take a year out.”
While undergoing treatment, Ronan was assisted by Macmillan Cancer Support.
The charity provides physical, emotional and financial support for cancer sufferers and their families.
To show his appreciation of their help, he organised a Coffee Morning in Cullaville Community Centre in December last year, raising over £5,000.
Ronan presented Macmillan a cheque for £4,500, and used the other £600 to make gift hampers for the nurses who treated him in Craigavon Area Hospital.
“Because I was under 25 and wasn’t working, Macmillan gave me money,” he said.
“I already knew of Macmillan before because people in my family had cancer and Macmillan would have helped them, so I thought it would be a good charity to do [the coffee morning] for because it goes back into the local community and they carry out a fantastic service for people at a time when they are in need of support.”
Ronan’s treatment ended on December 22nd last year and he attended the Royal Victoria Hospital in January for tests to gauge how successful his treatment was.
Two weeks ago he was told he was cancer free and requires no further treatment.
“It was fantastic news. I can live my life again,” added Ronan, who is now training to do the Ring of Kerry charitable cycle in July to raise funds for Fintan’s Fund. The charity offers ‘experiences to remember’ for young adults undergoing cancer treatment and which sent Ronan and his partner away last year for a holiday break.
“It’s another fantastic charity and I hope people help me raise money for it also,” said Ronan, who these days is doing what he loves best and which cancer temporarily denied him – teaching.