In September 2020, 36-year-old, Donna-Marie Cullen from Lucan in Dublin was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of cancer called Ewing Sarcoma.
Donna-Marie had been experiencing fatigue and headaches for a number of month’s prior to her diagnosis. The Mum of 2, says that receiving the news she had cancer was shocking and devastating but feels survival mode kicked in and she was ready to face her diagnosis.
Her treatment began immediately, which included extensive chemotherapy, surgery and 30 sessions of radiotherapy.
Surgery to remove Donna-Marie’s tumour was due to happen at Christmas time, however due its complexity, location and size of the tumour, doctors were unable to undertake the procedure.
Thankfully 2 incredible surgeons from Beaumont hospital consulted with a North American sarcoma team and managed to devise a plan and on Feb 9th, in an 8 hour surgery, they successful removed the tumour from Donna’s temporal region of her head/face!
Donna-Marie describes going through cancer during the pandemic as ‘horrific’, particularly as the type of chemo she received was administered as an inpatient meaning she spent approximately 1 week out of every 3 weeks, in hospital alone, without visitors and away from her young family.
She says that if it wasn’t for the support of the Irish Cancer Society, her family wouldn’t have had access to reliable information throughout her diagnosis.
“We got a lot of advice and support from the Irish Cancer Society, especially when it came to telling our 11 year old son this heart breaking news. Honesty and empathy were very important to us delivering this news. To make things easier for us as a family, we removed the emotions that came with the word “cancer” when my son, Seán, nicknamed the tumour, Egor. He drew a picture of it after a brief anatomy lesson and coloured it in green - and he also drafted its P45! ‘Adios Egor’ was our happy tag line during treatment” she says.
Donna-Marie finished up her treatment in the summer of 2021 and has since undergone a number of reconstructive procedures. She has been celebrating the news that she is now stable and is looking to the future with her fiancé Colin and 2 children Séan and Max.
To make things easier for us as a family, we removed the emotions that came with the word “cancer” when my son, Seán, nicknamed the tumour, Egor.
Her advice to anyone going through cancer is “never forget that even after the darkest of nights, the sun will always shine. Whilst going through treatment all you can do is give up your body to oncology to treat you, while you look after your mental health”.
Contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line
If you have worries or concerns about cancer, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.
Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.00pm
For more information
1800 200 700