Everything changed for Ian Fahey on September 20, 2022. The 47-year-old cyber security consultant was working from his home in Swords when he noticed some blood in his urine at around 1pm. 

“My dad and my brother had both had kidney stones within the previous two years and I knew that this was one of the indicators for it,” says Ian.

 “I rang our GP shortly after lunch at 2.05pm and saw the GP at 2.30pm that day. By the time I saw the GP my urine had cleared and I was wondering whether it was worth following up or not.” 

His doctor gave him a referral letter, and that same afternoon, he went to the Beacon Hospital for blood tests and a CT scan. After having a second scan, Ian was called into a room by a doctor some 45 minutes later. “He said there’s only one way to say this but we’ve identified a large mass on your kidney. It snowballed from there,” recalls Ian.

His journey from noticing blood in his urine to receiving a diagnosis took just six hours. “It all happened so quickly, I’m still in a bit of a daze about it,” he says. 

He was checked into the hospital straight away and underwent more tests. The following morning Ian met with an urologist and the oncology team. “They told me that there was no point in doing a biopsy because of the size of the mass, and that they would just take it out and analyse it then, but there was a very high chance that it was some form of cancer,” Ian says. His surgery was scheduled to take place the following week, allowing Ian, his wife Christine and their family some time to process this earth-shattering news.  

“There were no real indications,” says Ian. “I’m quite active; I do a lot of GAA coaching with both my club, St Finians GAA in Swords and with the Dublin U15 hurlers, and I was on the pitch the night before. I had lost a bit of weight but I thought this was more down to a change in my work and eating patterns. I never thought that I might have anything wrong with me." During Covid, I became very sedentary and I was regularly working 16-18 hour days helping companies recover following a cyber or ransomware attack.I was eating late at night but after switching jobs in June 2021, I’d lost a stone and a half, and was feeling much healthier due to that. But in hindsight, it may have been something to do with the tumour.” 

Ian’s kidney was removed on September 26 and he then awaited the results.  “It wasn’t easy not knowing what was ahead because it wasn’t just the tumour on my kidney. They had also removed some lymph nodes which had been inflamed so they were afraid there was something in the lymphatic system,” he says. 

Thankfully, Ian received the all-clear a few days later. He was cancer free after surgery but there was always a chance of recurrence. Because of this, his oncology team told him he was a prime candidate to participate in a Cancer Trials immunotherapy trial which was running in Tallaght University Hospital and targeted patients who were post nephrectomy (kidney removal).The Irish Cancer Society has invested millions of euro into clinical trials since 2012, with a €1 million investment in both 2021 and 2022 respectively. The aim of these trials is to test new and more effective ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. After meeting the Cancer Trials team, and discussing it with family; his GP; his sister (a community pharmacist) and his sister-in-law (a clinical pharmacist), he decided to do the trial. 

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The Irish Cancer Society has invested millions of euro into clinical trials since 2012, with a €1 million investment in both 2021 and 2022 respectively. 

“From all the information we got there was nothing in there we could see that was negative and could outweigh the potential benefits. Knowing that I could stop it at any time and the level of care I was going to get was probably a deciding factor,” he says. 

He is currently third of the way through the trial which includes a drug administered by IV every six week and a placebo/tablet that he takes daily. This sees him in the hospital every three weeks and he will be monitored for 7 years after the 54-week trial ends. He has found it all to be a very positive experience. “It has been amazing, the level of care I get is a real testament to the oncology & Cancer Trial teams in TUH. The only complaint I have is traffic on the M50 getting over to my appointments!” he says. 

His experience has taught him the importance of getting any unusual symptoms checked out. “It’s something that I know men in general are bad at doing. Under normal circumstances, I would have probably been a bit reticent to go to the GP but knowing my dad and brother had kidney stones, and also the fact that my dad had a stent inserted following a recent angiogram was a trigger. Obviously, I couldn’t have dreamed that within a week, I’d have had surgery for renal cancer and be in recovery.”

💛 The Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day, the day we take back from cancer, takes place March 24th 2023. To make a donation, visit www.cancer.ie/daffodilday 🧡

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