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Pictured at the launch of The Cancer Fund For Children Fermanagh Fund Raising initiative are from left, Jack Courtney, Enniskillen Royal Grammer School; Connor McBarron, Fionn McBarron and John Courtney..
A TEACHER who had to give up the profession he loved due to a rare form of bone cancer is looking to give back to one of the many organisations that have supported him and his family during his journey.
Connor McBarron, who taught at St. Michael’s College, Enniskillen, received the devastating news that he had a very rare form of bone cancer that was not responsive to either chemotherapy or radiotherapy in December, 2018, at 43 years of age.
“The only option was to undergo extensive surgery that required the removal of three ribs, and a chest reconstruction,” Connor explained.
“This was and has been a life-changing experience to me, my wife and family of four children who at the time were five, eight, 10 and 12 years old.”
His life now requires constant medication and pain treatment.
“With the nature of my cancer, the rare bone cancer, it does not travel through the bone marrow – it’s a tumour that grows out of part of the bone, and then the only way to deal with it is to cut the thing out.
“But it’s the physical wreckage that it leaves behind that you have to deal with. In my case, all of the nerves on the right side of the wall cavity had to be severed, and then subsequently [that’s] where the whole chronic pain materialised, and then you have residual pain from the implants.
“So, yeah I am bionic,” Connor joked. “I could have done with that in St. Michael’s for the years I was there!”
Connor’s passion for teaching is evident, and having to leave the job he loved was tough for him. But the impression he left on the students he taught is clear.
“I’m just bowled over with the support I have had from past pupils, between calling at the house, cards, phone calls, messages – it’s just incredible. I mustn’t have done too bad a job on them.
“That to me was the hardest decision, having to step away from your job, knowing in your heart and soul you weren’t physically fit to see it through.
“When you go into that profession, it’s not for the money – it’s for the prestige of being given that noble privilege of moulding and inspiring youngsters to develop into their own self. You can’t buy that.
“Just lighting that flame and seeing them progress through life is just class.”
And while he is no longer teaching, Connor is an inspiration for many in the way he has met his cancer head-on, and has never once asked, “Why me?”
But he doesn’t want the story to be about him, but about the care, he and his family have received since 2018.
Along the way, the Cancer Fund for Children Ireland has been a constant support through respite at Daisy Lodge, Co. Down, and their many support programmes for children.
“These have enabled our children to deal with the reality of their father having to since manage and live with the new physical wreckage left from having had sarcoma cancer.
“In Fermanagh, its profile of this cancer wouldn’t be good; there wouldn’t be a lot of awareness about it, but they [the Cancer Fund for Children Ireland] have been working in the county for the guts of the past 20 years.”
Daisy Lodge and Narnia in Newcastle have become a special place for Connor and his family.
The ongoing work of this great charity has led them to want to build a second centre in Cong, Co. Mayo.
Rory Best, the former Ulster and Irish rugby captain, has lent his support by undertaking a 10-day challenge of walking from Co. Down to Co. Mayo. He will walk through several counties, including our own, Co. Fermanagh.
Connor has organised a seven-a-side touch rugby game between St. Michael’s and Enniskillen Royal Grammar School, in which his son, Fionn, will play alongside Jack Courtney, whose father also has cancer.
The game on Saturday, September 11 will also see local sporting figures including footballer Roy Carroll, swimmer Chelsey Wilson, rower Ross Corrigan and Olympian Ann Cairns in attendance.
Rory Best aims to raise £500,000 for the charity as part of the 180-mile trek and Connor is calling on the people of Fermanagh to help reach this target.
“This is an opportunity for all of us in Fermanagh to publicly lend our support to a great cause,” Connor added.
You can donate to Connor’s JustGiving page at https://tinyurl.com/3s3y6u4p, or donations can be left into St. Michael’s College, Enniskillen.
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