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18th October 2019

Kevin O’Keefe

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Kevin and his wife, Marie, had just moved into their new home when he started suffering from shoulder pain. When he went to his doctor, they put it down to all the gardening he’d had been doing. Kevin wasn’t convinced however and so asked for an x-ray.

His suspicions were founded, and he was diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2015. Since then he has had a variety of treatment including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and has just finished a two-year course of immunotherapy.

“I didn’t suffer from any side effects from my chemotherapy. Unfortunately though, after four rounds of treatment, my latest CT scan showed no great improvement.

It was then that I was booked in for 20 rounds of radiotherapy. I was extremely fatigued during this treatment. I also experienced soreness when swallowing, which I believe is quite a common side effect. This was manageable though by taking liquid morphine.

The follow up scans were difficult to read, due to so much fibrosis. Despite this, I was told I was in remission.

The joy was short lived however when, six months later, I noticed lumps around the base of my neck. A biopsy confirmed the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in my neck.

It was then that the immunotherapy, nivolumab, was put on the table. I agreed to the treatment which started in August 2017.

I had fifty-one treatments over 24 months, with a CT scan every six weeks. My only side effect with immunotherapy was tiredness. It lasted about three days after I had my treatment. I would just lie on the couch for forty minutes until the feeling passed. It didn’t really stop me doing too much; I would still be go out twice a day for a walk, usually about an hour each time.

I have just completed my two-year course of nivolumab. At the time, there was no mention of any time limitation. It was only when we asked much later down the line that the treatment was only licensed for two-year use.

I felt slightly insecure after finishing immunotherapy. When I was having the treatment, I was content in the knowledge the cancer was being contained.

But the latest scan is very encouraging. All the lymph nodes in my chest, neck and lung have returned to normal and the tumour is dormant. I asked if that meant I am now in remission again and was told that yes, I am.

I am very wary about the cancer returning. It was very quick last time, just six months, so I’m worried that that could happen again.

But there is nothing I can do about that. I just have to believe in the treatment, that the immunotherapy has done what it’s meant to do and kick started my immune system to keep the cancer contained.

And that would be my advice to anyone who has just been diagnosed; believe in the treatment and be positive in your outlook. My faith, my family and my friends have all helped me with that.