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Chemotherapy patient aims to put on 10kg for charity

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A debilitating nausea and serious weight loss is all part and parcel of cancer treatment, but one Galway man is taking up an eating challenge that he hopes will not only help him to put on some weight after his chemo, and also raise funds for charity in the process.

“Every cancer patient’s journey is different and the tribulations we face are varied. The most difficult thing I’ve had to deal with has been weight loss,” said 25-year-old Conor Lane, who lived in Galway City prior to moving to London to study a Masters in Television Journalism.

At six foot five inches, Conor currently weighs 74kg, which is the low end of a healthy weight for someone of his height. That’s thanks to four months of aggressive chemotherapy which lasted nine hours a day, three days a week, every three weeks.

“On May 18, 2016, soon after completing an internship at CNN London, I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. It’s a rare bone cancer that formed in my rib, and from my rib a six inch malignant tumour had developed next to my right lung. The tumour was about the size of a melon and I certainly wasn’t sure whether someone could survive something like that,” Conor explained.

Ewing’s Sarcoma is rare and presents most often in children and teenagers, according to Conor but “regardless of the age, it’s true when they say that being told you have cancer is one of the scariest things you could hear”.

When he was diagnosed, Conor was in the capable hands of the doctors and nurses at the Macmillan Cancer Centre who assured him that, despite the seriousness of his condition, they were looking to cure him with approximately nine months of treatment.

“I was shocked, of course, but I felt that I was in great hands. For most people, the idea of being told you have an enormous tumour in your chest is a nightmare, but the actual size of the tumour was inconsequential after being told that my cancer was localised,” he said, emphasising that this was in fact lucky for him – if the cancer had spread to another part of his body, his chances of survival would drop.

The Macmillan Cancer Centre has been taking phenomenal care of Conor and, in return, he has set up a fundraiser on JustGiving.com entitled #100DaysOfCalories, which will see him eating approximately 3,500 calories a day in an attempt to gain 10kg and raise money for a worthy cause.

“The idea behind our fundraiser was that there is no way we’ll ever be able to thank them enough for the help they’ve given me but we wanted to do something that would show how much we appreciate all that they’ve done. I had thought about wanting to do a fundraiser for a long time after I was diagnosed, but hadn’t been in good enough shape to do so,” said Conor

“I would like to be able to say that I’m aiming to run multiple marathons for Macmillan to raise money, a type of challenge that many people do, but being on chemo meant that was never going to happen at this time, so we had to think about what would be good for me.

“Maintaining weight is a big strain for a lot of people on chemo, so much so that they have to receive nutrients and fluids intravenously because otherwise they’d lose too much weight. The specialists were worried about me in the beginning because I lost a lot of weight suddenly, around 6kgs. It was something we had to reverse or else it was going to affect my treatment.

“The NHS provides free calorie shakes, little 125ml bottles that provide up to 300 calories per drink and I’ve been using them for months to help. I have been able to keep at a steady weight, sometimes fluctuating rapidly down and then back up again, depending on my condition.

“Chemo in the long run causes mucositis because it strips away the lining in your throat, making it impossible to eat with the pain. I had that several times and would sometimes go three or four days without being able to eat much solid food. So a weight gain challenge sounded ideal and tailor-made for me and my experience.”

It was Conor’s girlfriend of almost one year, Elisa Brugger who had the initial idea. The native of Brazil met Conor in January 2016 and said that the two quickly became inseparable. His diagnosis hit Elisa hard, but both have remained positive throughout the treatment.

“Trying to get Conor to eat more has definitely been a challenge. We’ve also had some sleepless nights at the emergency room and when he’s too weak to even stand up for long I have to do pretty much everything for him, but to be honest I really don’t mind any of that,” said Elisa.

“The hardest thing and also most important one is to keep it together emotionally. The truth is that everything about this is difficult, even being happy can be difficult, but if you can do that, everything else gets easier.”

So far, Conor and Elisa have raised 18% of their £10,000 goal for the #100DaysOfCalories challenge – and that’s just in the first week. The challenge has received a lot of support, and Conor will need all the encouragement he can get.

“I’ve never been a voracious eater to begin with, so it is definitely going to be difficult. I have to change my relationship with food. Food is normally something I’ve had when I needed, moreso than something I wanted,” he explained.

“Now that I need to eat around 3,500 calories for this challenge, I have to think about it a lot more often. And gaining 10kgs over the course of 100 days while on chemo, known for taking away your appetite and leading to a general feeling of unease and for some people, nausea, will require a good deal of effort.

“The outpouring of support from people for the challenge has been great. I’ve had a lot of people, who, when they learned of my diagnosis, wanted to help me and I couldn’t think of a way for them to do so. Now that I’m doing this challenge, they can really feel like they’re pushing me towards an important goal.”

■ To find out more about Conor’s story and to donate to the cause, visit JustGiving.

Connacht Tribune

Galway Lotto prize winner off to see the King!

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A National Lottery player from Conamara is still in disbelief after claiming their EuroMillions ‘Ireland Only Raffle’ ticket worth a staggering €1,005,000 this week – and is already planning a trip to Graceland!

The player, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they didn’t realise they had the winning ticket.

“I was looking at my ticket and it didn’t have any of the EuroMillions numbers, I didn’t think I’d won anything, so I threw it somewhere in the car. I completely forgot to check the raffle code on the bottom of the ticket!

“A few weeks later I decided to do a clear out of the car and I found the ticket wedged down the side of the seat. I scanned the ticket on the app and called the National Lottery Claims Team and that’s when they told me I was a millionaire! I couldn’t speak, I was in such complete and utter shock!

“I had a plan to surprise my wife for her birthday by putting the cheque in the card, but my great plan lasted all of one hour, I just had to tell her, I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer!”, they added.

The player purchased the winning EuroMillions ticket worth €1,005,000 on the day of the draw, Friday 19th August, in Costcutter in Beal an Dangan.

They revealed some plans they hope to achieve with the new life-changing prize.

“We’ve always wanted to go to Graceland in Memphis to visit the home of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll himself. That’s all we have in mind for the moment, we’re still letting it all sink in”, they said.

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Connacht Tribune

Exhumations to begin next year at Tuam Mother and Baby Home site

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A full exhumation of the bodies of children buried in the grounds of Tuam Mother and Baby Home will begin in 2023.

A ‘Director of Authorised Intervention’ is to be appointed by Government to oversee the excavation of the site where it is believed almost 800 children were interred in an unmarked grave.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, in bringing matter before the Dáil, said it was incumbent on the State to address what was “a stain on our national conscience”.

Deputy Catherine Connolly, TD for Galway West, said while the news on the exhumation was welcome, she had “lost faith” in the Government which she said had “learnt absolutely nothing” and had to be “dragged” every step of the way.

It had failed to bring forward a redress scheme for survivors of the home, she said, and Minister O’Gorman had rowed back on a previous commitment to have an independent human rights review of the testimony provided by survivors to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

“I don’t think he should ever have promised that because he was never in a position to do it. He was never going to question the establishment narrative given to us by the three wise commissioners, the narrative that told us that the evidence of those who came forward was contaminated and should therefore be treated with caution,” said Deputy Connolly.

“We continue to begrudge and to do everything belatedly. If we are seriously interested in redress, let us do it right.”

Paying tribute to those who shone a light on the wrongdoings in the Tuam Home and elsewhere, Deputy Connolly said it was they who had forced the Government’s hand.

“On the ground, we have seen Catherine Corless and, well before her, Mary Raftery. I also want to mention Patricia Burke Brogan [activist and playwright] who died last week – may she rest in peace – with regard to the work she did in respect of the Magdalen laundries, in particular with the play Eclipsed.

“The groups on the ground have certainly forced us and dragged us every step of the way,” she said.

Agreeing, Minister O’Gorman said it was absolutely right to recognise critical the role of Tuam historian, Catherine Corless.

“We would not be here today but for her dogged persistence in highlighting what happened in Tuam.

“Deputy Connolly mentioned the redress legislation. This legislation has been worked on by my Department over the summer and I will bring it to Cabinet in October to seek approval for the final Bill and to bring it rapidly through the Houses [of the Oireachtas] and the committee, so that we can provide redress to family members,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Seán Canney, TD for Galway East, said what had happened had impacted the people of Tuam deeply and said the Director, when he or she is appointed, should be based in Galway and seek to engage with locals during the excavation process.

“It has created a sense of a stain on, or a shadow over Tuam as a town. Tuam is a very good town and has the finest people living there.

“The Minister has set out in his speech how a Director would be appointed . . . and that an office will be set up to manage the excavation and all that goes with it. However, it is important that there is local engagement with the people of the town,” said Deputy Canney.

“The office should be set in the town and there should be a liaison aspect to the brief that this director will have so people from the locality who want to know what is going on can find out,” he continued, adding that locals should be able to meet the Director in Tuam and not Dublin or anywhere else.

Minister O’Gorman outlined that the Director would oversee a phased forensic-standard excavation, recovery, analysis and re-interment of the remains.

“The order also provides that the Director will carry out an identification programme as an additional function for the intervention,” he said.

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Connacht Tribune

Customs ‘dip’ for green diesel on Aran island

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Revenue officers made an unannounced visit to Inis Mór last week – with around 10 customs officials performing spot checks for marked diesel.

The Connacht Tribune understands that three motorists were nabbed by the officers for driving with ‘green diesel’ – a fuel only permissible for off-road use, mainly in agriculture.

According to a source in Revenue, this surprise visit is a return to normal service, with spot checks having stalled during Covid.

As part of the operation, customs officers were drafted in from various locations and travelled to the island without prior notice to Gardaí.

Having arrived by ferry from both Galway Docks and Ros a’ Mhíl, officers performed a number of checks at the Pier in Kilronan and also visited Dún Aonghasa.

Vehicles were dipped for green diesel for which tax is paid at a much cheaper rate than road diesel. Those convicted of using marked diesel on the roads face a maximum fine of up to €5,000.

A garda spokesperson confirmed that a group of Revenue officers visited Inis Mór on Friday, September 16, and were facilitated by gardaí on the island.

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