Denis: My battle with liver cancer
Former councillor wants to raise money and awareness
Former Rutherglen councillor Denis McKenna has opened up about his battle against liver cancer.
Denis, who was a councillor from 1999 until this year, was found to have two tumours around his liver last November, a diagnosis that stunned him.
He is now being treated with a trial drug while his family prepare to take part in a fundraiser to help the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre.
He said: “I was having terrible pains in my side when I was sleeping, which I was later told was probably caused by the two tumours rubbing together, and I couldn’t sleep, but I was coping with it.
“I had a Labour Party meeting on the Saturday to pick the new candidates for the council elections, and it just got sorer and sorer.
“I came out of Cambuslang Institute and phoned NHS 24 from the car park, but I could barely stand up. I thought it might have been kidney stones, so they took me to Hairmyres Hospital and kept me overnight.
“About a week later the pain came back with a vengeance and I had to go back to hospital. This time they did all sorts of tests and I got the shock of my life.
“When they got the results back the doctor suggested I should call my family in, and I asked if there was anything to be worried about.
“He said he would talk about it later when everyone was there, which told me it wasn’t going to be good news.
“I actually said to the anaesthetist that I had just thought it was a pain in my side, and he said you’d be surprised how often we find out that way. It was something I’d never given any thought to before.
“They found out there was a nodule there, just a tiny one, and if it turned out to be cancerous then there would be no way they could operate on the tumours.
“A few weeks after that initial consultation they found there was more than one nodule, and they couldn’t operate because they were all cancerous. I was told that the cancer is incurable.”
However the 68-year-old is currently being treated with the trial drug nivolumab, which has made his life easier.
He was offered the choice between it or the more common sorafenib, and picked nivolumab, which has provided him with a boost, as has the care provided at the Beatson.
Denis added: “When I first went there I thought the Beatson would be this really depressing, horrible place.
“But the people there make you feel good and the attitude from everyone is unbelievable. It actually gives me a wee boost.
“There was a lot of discussion with my family about going on the trial, because of the possible side effects. But one of my sons is a nurse, and he explained that there are possible side effects galore with any drug. It wasn’t an easy decision, but my gut feeling had been to try it.
“I don’t kid myself that nivolumab is a miracle cure, but it has been making me feel much better. The cancer has reduced by 39 per cent since I’ve been on it and the treatment is making me feel better enough that I think something could happen.”
That is why Denis and his family will be taking part in Off the Beatson Track on Sunday, August 27.
The event is a 10K walk that will start and finish at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow, weaving its way around the West End.
Taking part will be Denis’s two daughters, Ellen and Jennifer, along with daughterin-law Aileen and several grandchildren.
Although his two sons will not be in Glasgow, they both intend to contribute too, with Paul going for a walk in Australia, and Anthony intending to walk several miles on the treadmill on the oil rig he is stationed on.
Already the group have earned £1,916 in donations.
Denis added: “We’re trying to encourage people to be aware of this, and to support the Beatson.
“My biggest fear when I started treatment was what I would do if I took a reaction to it, but they (Beatson staff ) are always there.
“That’s a great comfort to have.”
Visit www.justgiving.com/ fundraising/aileen-mckenna2 for how to donate to Denis’s cause.
Anyone interested in signing up to the walk itself can do so by visiting www. beatsoncancercharity.org, emailing email@example.com or calling 0141 212 0505.
Family manFormer councillor Denis McKenna surrounded by his family who are all raising money for the Beatson
Walk on Denis’s son Paul is also completing a walk in Australia