Claremorris student tells of his cancer journey

Tracey McArdle and Jason Slattery at last year’s CanTeen ball.

Tracey McArdle and Jason Slattery at last year’s CanTeen ball.

Claremorris student Jason Slattery from Murneen was just nine years old when he was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was summer 2002. His mother noticed a lump on his neck and after some tests and doctors’ appointments and eventually a visit to Crumlin children’s hospital he was diagnosed with the disease.

Jason spent the summer taking steroids and travelling up and down to Dublin for chemotherapy.

Having finished his treatment there was still a bit of a lump on Jason’s shoulder but he was told it was only scar tissue from the series of operations he had undergone. However when another lump appeared further up his neck in November 2004 he returned to Crumlin for more tests.

The Hodgkin’s lymphoma was back and this time had progressed from stage one to stage three. The treatment was more aggressive this time with chemotherapy for five days in a row at a time then over to St Luke’s Hospital for radiation therapy.

Jason was in sixth class at Barnacarroll National School at the time and missed most of the school year from November to May while he was undergoing treatment. But he attended classes in Crumlin and was able to progress to first year in St Colman’s College in Claremorris as planned.

“I was scared and upset,” he told the Mayo Advertiser as he recounted finding out the disease had returned. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was very sick on the chemo, it was an aggressive therapy,” he added.

However, despite his fears, Jason was given the all clear after he finished his radiation therapy and he is now almost seven years free of cancer. He still attends regular check ups in Galway having being released from Crumlin as a patient at the age of 18, just two years ago.

Jason is now living a full student life in Sligo where he is studying forensic science at Sligo IT. He has become an active participant in CanTeen’s activities. CanTeen is a charity which was set up to support young people with cancer.

Jason first signed up to become a member of CanTeen when he was about 12 but lacked the confidence to attend any of their weekend meetings. When he received a phone call from the organisation inviting him to a Westport activity camp at the age of about 16 he decided to go and has not looked back since.

“When I was going through treatment I didn’t know what to expect and had no one to talk to. On these weekends I got comfortable enough to talk about my experience. I regret that when I first got a letter from CanTeen that I didn’t meet them, I missed out on so much. It’s been a great experience and I’ve made so many friends. It’s an easy environment for talking about being sick where no one is being judged,” Jason explained.

He also urged anyone who is worried that they might have cancer to get themselves checked. “Don’t let it go, it does make all the difference the earlier you get it,” he pleaded.

This year, CanTeen Ireland will celebrate its winter ball in style, as the Crowne Plaza in Santry will be turned into a Willy Wonka chocolate factory for the night. This year’s event, which takes place on Saturday, November 10, promises to be the best yet, as Bernard O’Shea from RTE’s Republic of Telly will act as host, with SoundCheque providing the music.

For information about CanTeen Ireland call Evelyn Griffith on 01 8722012, www.canteen.ie

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