De­nis: My bat­tle with liver cancer

For­mer coun­cil­lor wants to raise money and aware­ness

Rutherglen Reformer - - Front Page - Jonathan Ged­des

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.just­giv­ 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. beat­son­cancer­char­, email­ing events@beat­son­cancer­char­ 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

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