A former NUI Galway student and section editor of SIN has launched a campaign to raise money for charity after undergoing aggressive chemotherapy to treat his own cancer.
25-year-old Conor Lane was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer most commonly presenting in children and teenagers, in May 2016.
Since then, he has gone through four months of aggressive chemo in an attempt to shrink a massive tumour in his chest. The next phase is a course of radiotherapy and consolidation chemo, followed by surgery to remove the tumour and three of his ribs.
“The most bizarre thing about being told that I had a six-inch tumour growing rapidly in my chest, which was quite literally pushing my right lung out of the way to make room, was that I was never out of breath. I played for CNN’s football team on a full pitch and felt generally good,” said Conor.
“It’s the horribly insidious nature of the disease that angers me. The worst news people get will be that they’ve likely had cancer for far longer than they realised and in that time it has a way of affecting your body further. It was almost funny when my doctor looked at me and said he’d seen bigger tumours, adding that he was confident that my case was straightforward and very treatable, and that the majority of people recover from this.”
Since he was diagnosed, the tumour in Conor’s chest shrunk from the size of a melon to the size of a “fat strawberry”, making him even more positive about beating cancer. But with chemo comes a series of other problems, such as a debilitating nausea and extreme weight loss.
At six foot five inches, Mr Lane currently weighs 74kg, which is on the lower side of healthy for someone of his size and, in an attempt to put some weight back on, he and his girlfriend, Elisa Brugger have launched #100DaysOfCalories, which will see Mr Lane eating approximately 3,500 calories per day.
The challenge was launched on JustGiving.com four weeks ago and has reached 37% of its £10,000 goal. All funds will go to the Macmillan Cancer Centre, where Conor has been receiving his treatment.
“The Macmillan Cancer Centre has been taking phenomenal care of me. 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.
“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,” he said.
Maintaining weight is a big challenge for a lot of people on chemo, and many have no choice but to receive nutrients and fluids intravenously to give them strength for the battle they’re fighting.
Specialists were worried about Conor in the beginning because of his weight loss, and he was told it was something he had to work on to ensure effective treatment, and so the challenge was born.
The idea for #100DaysOfCalories was originally thought up by Conor’s girlfriend of almost one year, Elisa Brugger.
“When Conor got diagnosed I felt powerless, because I wanted to help and I didn’t know how. And after a couple of months feeling like I wasn’t helping enough, I realised that there was a pretty important job that I had actually been doing all along: making him laugh and keeping him happy,” she said.
But now Elisa is helping even more by ensuring Conor gets enough calories into him over the next 100 days: “We’re both very excited about it and it’s going really well, so I’m feeling pretty positive about reaching our financial goal for Macmillan. But the fact is that I finally got Conor to eat as much as he should, so the challenge is already a success from where I stand.”
To learn more about Conor’s story and to donate to his cause, visit www.justgiving.com/100daysofcalories. You can follow his progress on Instagram at @100DaysOfCalories.
-By Jessica Thompson