Niall Cavanagh, now aged 48, bravely fought and beat a brain tumour diagnosis when he was a teenager. He shared his experience with The Kerryman in an interview conducted ahead of the seventeenth annual International Brain Tumour Awareness Week. This week-long event, running from October 28th to November 4th, aims to raise awareness about brain tumours and support those affected by them.

Niall’s journey was not an easy one. Leading up to his diagnosis in 1992, he experienced symptoms such as excessive thirst, urination, severe headaches, vomiting, and stunted growth. It was when he went for an eye examination for double vision that the examiner noticed something seriously wrong with his retinas. Further tests revealed a germinoma brain tumour pressing on the pituitary gland.

To relieve the pressure caused by the tumour, Niall underwent an emergency ventriculoperitoneal shunt procedure. This involved inserting a tube from his brain to his abdomen to drain the excess cerebrospinal fluid. He also underwent extensive radiotherapy to shrink the tumour and prevent its spread.

The tumour affected Niall’s pituitary gland, resulting in a condition known as hypopituitarism. This condition causes a deficiency in various hormones, including growth hormone and anti-diuretic hormone. Niall experienced adverse effects on his physical and mental health due to the tumour and subsequent treatments.

Despite the challenges, Niall gained a clearer perspective on life. He learned to appreciate what is truly important and developed compassion through his own struggles with depression and anxiety. He emphasized that each person’s experience with a brain tumour is unique, and it’s essential to show support and understanding to others facing similar battles.

Niall’s health has gradually improved over the years, although he still faces challenges due to a weakened immune system. However, he remains resilient and has pursued higher education, obtaining two degrees in IT and a Masters in information systems. He currently works part-time in an administrative role with the Renewable Energy Centre in Killarney.

Throughout his journey, Niall received invaluable support from his family and various organizations, including the Cork Brain Tumour Support Group (now Brain Tumour Ireland), the Pituitary Foundation, and Headway in Tralee.

Niall’s story serves as an inspiration and a reminder of the importance of raising awareness and providing support to those affected by brain tumours. International Brain Tumour Awareness Week aims to continue spreading awareness and fostering understanding of this life-changing condition.

– The Kerryman