Dublin woman facing her fourth battle with cancer has been offered life-saving treatment in the US
Nurse Ciara Barry, 36, was diagnosed with a terminal version of blood cancer – high-risk myelodysplastic syndrome – in January last year as she prepared to celebrate her 10th birthday without cancer.
Ciara said: “The first time I would have had it was when I was 13. I was treated at Crumlin Children’s Hospital for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and had my chemo and surgeries there. I got the green light but a year later everything came back. So that meant more chemo, radiation and this time I had a bone marrow transplant.
“Unfortunately, this cancer is linked to too many treatments. The toxicity of all the treatments triggered this and in January they told me I had 18 months to live.
“I was preparing for another bone marrow, but the treatments I was supposed to do before did not work and the operation was cancelled. They told me to just manage my symptoms and enjoy what time I had left.
But the popular nurse refused to accept the death sentence and set out to seek treatment on board.
The Dublin native said: “I think they underestimated how stubborn I was. I had the whole family on a Google doc and we were all contacting haematologists around the world to find a cure for this .
Ciara wanted to fight for her future like she had three times before, but this time there was an additional reason.
“The week I found out about my diagnosis was the same week I started IVF treatment. We had been saving for a few years and I had been tested on my suitability for carrying a baby.
“I was focused on passing these tests and proving that I was capable of bearing a child.
Most read in The Irish Sun
“So when the consultant told me the cancer was there, I said I had embryos that were in a lab being created, I was getting daily updates about them. But she m said I had to cancel it.
“I asked, ‘what will it be in a year when the treatment is finished?’
“But they said I had to put it aside, and then I realized how serious it was.
“What was devastating was that I got a call a day or two later saying the embryos had survived, to pick up my medication from the pharmacy and that I would be ready to implant in a week, and I had to tell them, ‘I have cancer.'”
She added: “I told my husband Paddy jokingly a long time ago that we should have had our vows like ‘in sickness and in sickness’. He was there when I was sick for the third time , so he’s been through this before, but this time it really shook us all up.
“Covid has made it very difficult and I’ve had to call people and tell them on the phone or on WhatsApp, and that’s not the best way to tell someone you’re dying.
“I want more time with him and my nieces and nephews.”
After emailing specialists around the world, Ciara found a clinical trial in America that accepted her, but the cost of treatment, accommodation and everything else is around 500,000. €.
She will fly to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., in May and treatment, CAR T-Cell Therapy, will begin June 1.
The GoFundMe the family set up has already reached over €222.00 of its €500,000 goal, with supporters like neighbor Dubs star Michael Darragh McAuley, comedian Emma Doran and the Coronas supporting him. all share.
Myelodysplastic syndromes are a rare type of blood cancer, often called bone marrow failure.
MDS can occur when hematopoietic cells in the bone marrow become abnormal.
Treatments include chemotherapy or a stem cell transplant from a donor
But Ciara’s biggest thank you is for everyone who donates.
“It was the luck of the Irish, I think they gave me a place.
“They told me to prepare for a very expensive stay because as we are Irish we don’t have insurance so we have to pay for everything – every blood test.
“Sometimes I get a little worried about the amount of money and all these people giving their money away and my husband is like, ‘You’re invaluable, don’t worry about that.
“He’ll forget that when I get better and forget to do the laundry.”
TO STAY POSITIVE
She insists on keeping a positive attitude and says she feels like the “luckiest and unluckiest person”.
She told the Irish Sun: “I guess in a way I’m conditioned to get these terrible diagnoses, so I think I accept it a little easier. I see it as a way of life.
“I’ve always looked over my shoulder and the Grim Reaper is never too far away, something could always trigger again.”
She added: “But the hospital staff always told me that my glass was very full, and I think I’ve been given so many chances in life, why don’t I go out and I learned lessons so young, I’ve been to more teenage funerals than teenage discos, and you take those friends with you, you gotta enjoy life for them…
“Also with nursing you are always looking after someone who is not yourself, so I try not to be angry. I regret nothing.
“I lost almost ten years after the last treatment and what can you do? I am the luckiest and the unluckiest person.
“I’m very unlucky but I had so many positives. Look at this trial, there were only 88 people accepted and I’m one of them. I have everyone behind me and I think my luck turns for the fourth time.