A YOUNG mother who was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour last year has described how she had to “fight” to continue her chemotherapy treatment over lockdown.
Donna Mallon, from Killeeshil, was dismayed when she was told by her consultant that her treatment would be cut short due to the risks from Covid-19.
However, the 36-year-old nurse and mother-of-three refused to accept the decision.
“I phoned my consultant and told him I would rather have the rest of the chemo and prolong my life, rather than cut the treatment short because I might get Covid,” she said.
Donna, who was diagnosed with the stage four tumour last August, also revealed how the results of a scan never arrived and she only found out about them when her husband Caolan phoned the hospital about another matter.
“I just feel a bit let down by the duty of care. And I am not the type of person to complain,” she said.
This isn’t the first time the young mum has had to follow her instinct on her cancer journey. When she first attended casualty last year feeling unwell, she was told her bloods were normal, but she had a gut feeling something was badly wrong and insisted on a scan, which revealed a mass on her brain.
Donna, who has been fundraising for the charity Brainwaves NI since her diagnosis, explained why she challenged the latest decision.
She said, “I had originally asked my consultant if the tablets could be posted out but he said it was just too high risk to continue on chemo because if I caught Covid I might need a ventilator and not be able to get one.
“But I told him it was my human right to get the treatment and that because it was by tablet I wasn’t wasting any hospital resources, plus all my blood results had been good.
“He told me some people only take four months of chemo but I have a level four glioblastoma and was told from the start I needed six months.”
The hospital relented and Donna’s tablets for May and June were delivered by van from Belfast City Hospital.
She added, “If you weren’t able to speak up for yourself, I don’t know where you would be.”
She also said she was disappointed at the way her scan results had been handled.
Although the scan took place on June 10, Donna only found out the results by accident last week.
The hospital said a letter had been sent in the post, although Donna never received it.
She said, “After you get that scan you are sitting thinking about it every day.
“I spoke to the oncology nurse and she said that with Covid I couldn’t see the consultant and that I would have another scan in four months.
“Yes, it’s great that the result is good and the tumour isn’t active, but when you have a grade 4 tumour you would just like someone to talk it over with you, even if it’s on the phone.
“I think care towards cancer patients sometimes isn’t very thorough.”
Donna, who also underwent six months of radiotherapy and chemo before Christmas, says prayer and positivity got her through, “and looking after crazy wee ones!”
She has also been overwhelmed by the community support for her fundraising, which began with her daughters having their hair cut “to raise a couple of hundred pounds”.
To date, her JustGiving page has raised almost £36,000, and more money is expected to be added to this total in September when hundreds of members of the local community plan to walk and run a marathon.
Said Donna, “I will be finishing off my fundraising then. Never in a million years did I think I would have this amount of support from the community. People are so good.
“This is such a deadly illness and that’s why I want to do this fundraising for research.
“It hasn’t been a nice journey but I’m still here and that’s the main thing. You have to keep going for the wee ones. Just keep going, don’t lie down and don’t let anything beat you.”
Meanwhile, Donna’s advice to anyone who suspects they are unwell is to “keep fighting your corner”.
“If you ever think there is something wrong and you are told everything is fine, keep fighting. You know your own body better than anybody,” she added.