‘My cancer treatment was a walk in the park compared to this’
A BRAVE Navan woman who beat cervical cancer only to be diagnosed with a rare and incurable disease as a result of her treatment is urging women to have regular smear tests and has spoken of her hopes to access innovative life changing treatment in the UK.
In 2013 Leona Kieran (39), received the devastating news that she had cervical cancer. As a single mother her priority was to stay alive, get better and raise her son.
Luckily for Leona her cancer story was a huge success and she has been cancer free since 2014. However, in 2019 she was diagnosed with a rare and incurable disease called Lymphoedema, a condition that causes severe swelling in her leg due to a build-up of lymph fluid.
This happened from the surgeons removing 26 lymph nodes from her right pelvis area to treat her cancer.
At 36 she was told that she was going to have to live with a chronic disease which needed daily management in the form of full leg compression socks to be worn from morning to night, 1-2 hours daily on a Pneumatic compression pump in addition to regular MLD (Manual Lymphatic Drainage) and bandaging. All of which have been a massive financial strain for single mum Leona.
In the three years since her first symptoms appeared, Leona's leg has gradually grown and moved from grade 1 to grade 2 which means her leg no longer reduces in size impacting on her everyday life and job.
Leona is hoping to raise €27,000 for an operation in a hospital in Oxford UK, who specialise in lymphoedema microsurgery.
Unfortunately, time is not on her side and if she reaches grade 3 it will be inoperable with no hope to reverse the disease.
“For me my cancer treatment was a walk in the park compared to what I have to put up with every day with this. It has changed me as a person hugely. You wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
“It affects you the minute you wake up, when you sleep, the clothes you can wear, the shoes you can wear, the work you can do, where you can go, everything.”
Go-getter Leona who is a business manager in Joe Norris Motors in Navan describes the limiting nature of the condition as “frustrating” and says she just wants “a better quality of life” to enable her to reach her full potential.
“I have a very strong mentality, I get on with things, I get up in the morning and go to work, I have a very good job, it’s very busy, it’s stressful but I love it and for me this treatment in the UK which I did all my own research on is to see me hopefully working for the next 20 or 30 years because without it in five or ten years’ time I won’t be able to work at all.”
Leona thought her health worries were over when she was given the all clear for cervical cancer in 2014 but when she started to notice her leg swell in 2018 she decided to seek medical advice.
She eventually got a diagnosis in St James’s Hospital in Dublin and was left devastated by the news.
“If you google it and look at the pictures and look at the diagnosis for me it was nearly scarier than cancer, she said.
“The best option they can offer in Ireland is decongestive bandaging which is three or four weeks of intense bandaging, and they tighten the leg to bring down the size.
“You take it for granted in the morning that you can put on your shoes and go for a run, go to work and you don’t even think about your legs, all I think about now is my leg and how it feels.
“I’m not in pain everyday, it’s more a tightness because your skin stretches, then there is a dull ache of lifting quite a heavier limb. The hope is for those symptoms to ease and to not progress because if I go to stage 3 it just stops my life as I know it.
“I know traumatic things happen to people everyday and they have to adjust and get on with it but I’m just trying to get ahead of it if I can.”
Leona who is fiercely independent says she was reluctant to start a fundraising campaign but spurred on by her friends after already forking out thousands on private treatments and therapies decided to take action now in a bid to stop the disease progressing.
“I did try to save for this myself but with being a single mum with the outgoings I have made it very difficult. I said no for so long. and it’s quite scary for people to know my story but I decided now was the time to try and be a bit brave.
“I’m beyond thrilled at the phenomenal response to the GoFundMe and I appreciate everyone who took the time to share and donate. I’m in awe of everyone’s generosity and to my friends for pushing me on.
“My employer Joe Norris Motors has been so supportive too, I’m very lucky.”
The business manager originally from Nobber credits her early diagnosis for her success in beating cervical cancer and emphasises the importance of regular smear tests.
“I’d urge every woman to go and get your smear, it might be uncomfortable for a few minutes but it will hopefully stop potentially years of uncomfortableness.”