IN a show of support to Finance Minister Brian Lenihan as he battles with pancreatic cancer, Clare Minister of State, Tony Killeen, has spoken with the minister regarding his own treatment for bowel cancer.
Minister Lenihan is reported to have started his first session of chemotherapy and it is believed he will also require radiotherapy. He has pledged to remain in his post and will only step down on medical advice if his condition changes.
While the two forms of cancer are different, Deputy Killeen, who had two rounds of surgery, advised his party colleague of how he juggled work and chemotherapy.
Deputy Killeen believes Minister Lenihan has adopted the correct approach in confining himself to departmental core activities and to prioritise all other political duties. He also expects An Taoiseach Brian Cowen will shoulder some of the burden of the minister’s duties, considering his experience as Finance Minister.
“People do understand that you have to reduce your workload and there are things you simply can’t do. Minister Lenihan will be physically stronger than I was at the start of his treatment because he doesn’t need surgery.
“Late nights take their toll when you are receiving chemotherapy. I used to be able to work from 6.45am until 10.45pm but the 16-hour days are now reduced to 10.
“The fatigue from late night work is terrible and it isn’t cured by sleep. You have to learn how to pace yourself and you can’t do things at break-neck speed,” he added.
He said Minister Lenihan’s journey won’t be easy, but cramming the important work into the good days will make a difference.
“I got into a pattern during my treatment. I knew my bad days and I tried to schedule as little as work as possible.
“I never got sick but I did get a lot of nausea and suffer from some rare side effects such as nerve ending damage, which could last for a number of years,” he said.
Having completed six months of chemotherapy, Deputy Killeen is due to attend a check-up next week. However, he has been advised he will need to continue medication for side effects for at least two years.
When Deputy Killeen heard about the controversial broadcast of Minister Lenihan’s cancer on St Stephen’s Day, he wondered if he had had the opportunity to inform everyone he wanted to tell in person.
“Personally, I think you have to be able to come to terms with having cancer before you can speak publicly about it. When I spoke about my own cancer in April 2008, I wouldn’t have been able to do that three months earlier,” he said.