Top result as local girl gets all
clear from doctors
by Linda McGrory
WHEN you’ve lost one of your kidneys to cancer,
sitting the Leaving Certificate isn't such a big
Shauna O'Connor is one of the thousands of students
preparing for the first day of exams tomorrow.
But unlike most, the Inishowen teenager has already
got the result she wants, after recently getting the
all-clear from cancer.
Shauna was devastated when she was diagnosed with a
large, aggressive tumour on her right kidney in
October 2008 at the age of 15.
"I associated cancer with elderly people, so it was
a bit strange to be told I had it. One of my first
thoughts was about losing my long hair," said the
bubbly teen, who lives in Illies, near Buncrana,
with mum Ailish, dad William, and brother Patrick
“The cancer was also in the main blood vessel and
within about two weeks it had spread to my right
Shauna, who turns 19 later this month, had to endure
six gruelling chemotherapy sessions at Our Lady's
Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, to halt the
spread of the disease. She then had the cancerous
kidney removed the following March in an eight-hour
operation. This was followed by a further eight
courses of chemotherapy.
"Some of the chemo sessions lasted five days. I was
so sick and there was a lot of vomiting so I
couldn't have managed the long hair anyway," she
said. The O’Connors’ burden was eased by a local
cancer support group and money raised by local
people to help the family with their many trips to
Dublin. Money was also raised to help the hospital
in Crumlin as well as the children's ward at her
local Letterkenny General Hospital.
Cancer survivor Shauna sits Leaving
While slightly damaged
by the chemotherapy, her remaining kidney functions
well and allows her to enjoy the normal social life
of a busy teenager, albeit with daily medication to
regulate her body’s phosphate levels and Vitamin D.
She was told the “brilliant” news that she is
cancer-free, on March 20, last.
Shauna lost an entire school year at Scoil Mhuire,
Buncrana, to her illness and never sat the Junior
Cert. As a result, the Leaving Cert is her first
major exam. She will take Ordinary level English,
Irish, Maths, Biology and French and hopes to study
nursing in Liverpool after completing a two-year
Health and Social Studies course at the North West
Regional College in Derry starting in September. But
she is taking it all in her stride.
"I know I am very lucky to have got through the
cancer. When things have been touch and go, it puts
exams in perspective.
“Some of my friends are not eating or sleeping
because of the Leaving and I'm saying ‘cop yourself
on, it’ll be alright’,” she quipped.
Proud mum Ailish said: “When you’ve been through as
much as Shauna has been through, it’s overwhelming
that she has got the chance to do her Leaving. Some
children don’t get that chance.”
Meanwhile, the teenager paid tribute to her family,
friends, teachers, fundraisers and the medical staff
who treated her including her GP, Dr Maria Bradley
at Buncrana Medical Centre. “I wouldn't have got
through it without them.”