Cork teen home for Christmas after life-saving cancer op

Cork teen home for Christmas after life-saving cancer op
Aaron McMahon with his parents

A teenage boy who was told his cancer in the skull was terminal in Ireland is back in Cork celebrating Christmas after a successful life-saving operation in the States.

Aaron McMahon has just returned from receiving treatment in Essen, Germany. He was also back in the States for tests earlier this month.

This summer, the native of Shanagarry, Co Cork underwent an arduous eleven-hour surgery to remove a chordoma tumour at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre.

His father, Paul McMahon, says after a traumatic couple of years they are looking forward to having a few days of reprieve over the Christmas break.

"I am telling everyone to just throw their mobile phones in a bucket in the house. I have my best pal here Aaron helping me put up lights.

"My older son Andrew will be home. He and Aaron are very close. When we were told Aaron was terminal we didn't know if we would see this Christmas.

"We were told it was palliative care but we wouldn't give up. If we had done what they (medical personnel in Ireland) told us to do Aaron would be dead. I have no doubt we would be visiting a grave this Christmas."

Paul promised his wife Gail that they would explore every option to save their son's life.

He once even joked with her that if all else failed he would "go down to West Cork and ask the O'Donovan brothers to row them over to the States."

Everything I hoped for came true but we are still fighting a battle. I remember one of the doctors in Pittsburgh told Aaron that he had done exceptionally well for someone who had gone through such major trauma.

Mr McMahon says while the tumour was removed this isn't the end of the end of the story for 18-year-old Aaron.

With an illness such as his, there is no wrapping it all up in a neat bow. He will require numerous trips to the States and Germany over the coming years.

He still has health difficulties and challenges and is on twelve tablets a day.

"They call it 'no active disease.' His tumour has been removed but this cancer originates in the bone. He has not been given a cancer clear dignosis and there are still risks.

"There are new treatments coming. There are new trials out there and all these kinds of things which I am following like a hawk.

"There is always a chance of a reoccurence of the cancer."

Aaron has yet to secure a new oncologist in Ireland. Paul says they have received no help from official Ireland.

When a kid is looking at you startled and saying 'They don't care about me' well what do you say?

"Aaron received a letter from the HSE turning him down (for funds.) It was sent in his name. He was just 17. That was unforgivable. There has been no support."

Paul says his only mission is to see Aaron go on to live the life he deserves.

"He is very talented with his hands. He is good with music. He just needs a chance."

Aaron was back in Pittsburgh for a week earlier this month so he could be assessed.

They normally stay in motels but on their most recent trip they were given accommodation by a generous Arklow woman living Stateside called Vanessa Milton.

"She contacted us last summer while we were there and she is married to a Texan and living in Pittsburgh. Their little daughter really loved Aaron. Aaron totally relaxed because they weren't staying in a motel."

Aaron is taking it step by step in the coming months and is celebrating every milestone. He hopes to attend a Premier League match in the New Year.

Paul says they are extremely grateful for the "phenomenal" fundraising efforts carried by the community for Aaron on his Go Fund Me page. They also appreciate the support of the Gavin Glynn Foundation.

The fundraising will have to continue as the family are back in Pittsburgh in the New Year and are still awaiting their hospital bill for surgery. His treatment will be ongoing for the coming years.

"We have the costs of flights accommodation hiring a car and all that in the States. And further treatment. We are so grateful for the support we have received so far.

We got mass cards. We got beautiful messages. The story hit Irish America as well.

Aaron first spotted his reoccurring headaches in 2013 and they got progressively worse by 2016. He was diagnosed with a brain tumour and had surgery in Dublin before going

to Germany for treatment.

Earlier this year the family were told that his condition was terminal. However, surgeons in Pittsburgh intervened and he had surgery in the summer.

Chordoma is part of a group of malignant bone and soft tissue tumours called sarcoma and is diagnosed in one million people per year.

To donate to his ongoing and extensive costs visit gofundme.com/aaronmcmahon

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