How a teenager's brain cancer inspired him to great things
TEENAGER Kieran McLeod knows what it feels like to be told he has five years left to live.
It has been four years since Kieran, then 12, was diagnosed with a brain tumour and it has been six months since the growth in his brain started to grow significantly.
Weeks before Christmas, doctors expected Kieran would have five years to live.
Kieran was in grade eight at school when he woke up one morning with a migraine.
He put it off as a bad headache for more than a week before the family realised it could be something more serious.
"I thought it was a just a headache and would go away, but it didn't go away," he said. "There was a 3cm growth inside my head.
"There is a not a thought you can have the describes the feeling when you are told you have a tumour. I joked my way through the whole thing but deep down I was terrified." Kieran was rushed to the Mater Hospital where he stayed for a week while the Ibuprofen wore out of his system.
The tumour had blocked the flow of Kieran's spinal fluid from his brain, building up and causing the brain to swell against the side of his skull.
"That's exactly how I described it to Mum. I felt like my brain was going to explode, and it was," he said.
"I had an endotrophic third vesiculotomy, where they went in through my skull and poked a hole for the fluid to drain out."
The tumour had minimal growth and doctors were satisfied with Kieran's recovery until six months ago. He was given five years to live before he started responding well to treatment.
"It had grown and started getting active areas, so they diagnosed me with a high level brain cancer," he said.
A few weeks before Christmas, at the last minute, the family decided to cancel a biopsy surgery, which had the risk of damaging Kieran's memory and could have caused a stroke.
"It could have sliced the memory circuit, which means I would lose all ability to retain information. It would be like the movie 50 First Dates or a gold fish.
He started a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy two days after Christmas. He has two more rounds of double-dose chemotherapy to go, a process that makes he feel constantly ill.
"The last MRI shows it's smaller than the one before it," he said.
"It's about 5cm in diameter, which is too big to have in your head.
"It was very humbling. I knew it was bad. I wanted to prove them wrong, that was my first reaction.
"When the diagnosis changed I knew that was right because I didn't feel like I was dying.
"Lady Cilento hospital is my second home now."
Kieran is now studying what he calls the 'suicide six' subjects in year 12 at Bremer State High School part time. He studies English, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths B and Maths C.
Four of them are for 'healthy Kieran' next year.
"I used to want to be a doctor until I started talking to doctors all the time so now I want to do another health degree or biomedical engineering. I want to do something that helps people.
"I would sooner go through then want to have Chris or Gemma or Mum or Dad go through it. If they had it, I would be worried about them."
For little brother Chris, 12, Kieran is still the brother he grew up with.
"He's a fun person to be around and when he's feeling at his best it really enlightens you," Chris said.
Fundrasier aim to help others like Kieran
IT was his own close call with a brain tumour that inspired 16-year-old Kieran McLeod to help others.
He has organised the first Walk 4 Brain Cancer in Ipswich in August, to raise fund and awareness for the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation. One child dies every nine days from brain cancer in Australia.
"I have one and I don't want other people to go through that," Kieran said.
"The walk is to support Cure Brain Cancer Foundation and their goal is to increase the five year survival rate by 20% by 2023. "Only 5% of people survive five years with this kind of cancer and they want to improve that significantly.
"If everyone can come together and see there are other people like this, would be so important.
"Essentially what chemotherapy is to kill the body and hope the tumour dies first and I don't want that to happen to other people."
The family took part in the Brisbane fundraiser last year and Dad Joseph said it was then he realised the family was not alone.
"It wasn't until we went to the walk last year in Brisbane that we realised how many people this impacted. You see them walking with shirts with faces of people they have lost," he said. The Ipswich Walk 4 Brain Cancer will start at 8am at Limestone Park on August 5.
See walk4braincancer.com.au for details or search for the event on Facebook.