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.
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.
The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.
It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.
In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.
“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.
A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.
A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.
It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.
Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.
The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.
However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.
Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.
The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.
Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.
The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.
Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.
Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.
The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).
The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.
It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.
As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.
It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.
In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.
Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan
Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.
Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.
The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.
It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.
Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.
Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.
“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”
The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.
He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.
“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.
“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.
“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.