Almost €60k raised for Cork athlete battling rare form of cancer as search goes on for bone marrow donor

Almost €60k raised for Cork athlete battling rare form of cancer as search goes on for bone marrow donor
Tomás Mulqueen, who is well known within the cycling and rowing community is fighting K Cell Lymphoma in his oesophagus and in his bone marrow.

ALMOST €60,000 has been raised and counting for a local athlete who is currently battling his second rare form of cancer, but the search goes on for a bone marrow donor as the family urge the public to donate blood and sign up to the vital transplant service.

Tomás Mulqueen, who is well known within the cycling and rowing community is fighting K Cell Lymphoma in his oesophagus and in his bone marrow.

Married to his wife Linda and living in Ballincollig, Tomás is father to Emer, 12, Darragh, 6, stepfather to Caoimhe, 20 and is well respected as a bike mechanic and fitness coach.

Cleared of cancer 20 years ago, Tomás, who also lost both their parents to cancer, went for a biopsy in January after noticing some issues such as a low heart rate during high-intensity exercise and acid reflux.

Then in February he went on a cycling holiday to Spain and broke his pelvis. It took three and a half weeks to get him home, arriving a week before the Covid outbreak. He flew to Cork by air ambulance and was brought straight to the Mercy where he underwent a number of scans and tests to investigate his symptoms while recovering from a broken pelvis.

Currently, Tomás is undergoing his third cycle of SMILE chemotherapy and radiation at Cork University Hospital while the hunt for a bone marrow, which he will need in remission, continues.

Tomás Mulqueen racing before he became ill.
Tomás Mulqueen racing before he became ill.

This is his second cancer diagnosis after beating Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1999 after six months of aggressive chemotherapy and radium treatments, during which he was given the last rites twice.

Mr Mulqueen’s family are now raising funds for aftercare treatment for Tomás, who will be spending three to six months in Dublin with a carer attending day services at St James’ Hospital following the all-clear from CUH.

Speaking to The Echo, Tomás’ sister Sheila Mulqueen Gallagher said they have been bowled over by the support they have received from the public to date and said she was in awe of her brother’s resilience, humour and determination to beat this “god awful disease” for a second time.

“We can’t get over it, we are just flummoxed. Tomás is absolutely astounded with the response, as are we. Tomás has gained such strength from all of the messages he has received and he is humbled."

While the support has been overwhelming, Sheila said the family are taking it one day at a time with hurdles at every corner.

“The family were tested to see if anyone could be his bone marrow donor, but no one was a match. It was devastating, we wanted to be the match.” Sheila said a donor must now be found from a global database of 250 million donors worldwide.

As well as needing a bone marrow transplant, Tomās is receiving regular blood donations to counteract the side effects of the SMILE treatment.

“The chemotherapy is killing his red blood cells but at the moment his body is not able to make red blood cells which he needs to recieve chemotherapy and he has had six blood transfusions over three cycles of chemo,” Sheila explained, "It is a vicious circle so both types of donors are absolutely vital for his recovery. Potential donors can go to www.giveblood.ie. They can #doitfortomas and if they are not a match for him, perhaps they are a match to someone who may need their help."

Sheila said the family are urging people to give blood and sign up to be a bone marrow donor, not just for Tomās but for everyone who needs these life-saving transfusions and transplants.

“Due to Covid, and the lockdown and everything, blood supplies are low, they need to build up supplies,’ she said.

"The top priority is that Tomás wants to encourage potential donors of blood and/or bone marrow to register. I am calling on every person who is in the position to do so, to please consider becoming a Blood donor and/or Bone Marrow donor at www.giveblood.ie. Remember, somebody somewhere needs your help.” 

To donate to Tom’s aftercare treatment, search: ‘Aid Tomās on his bone marrow transplant journey’ on Gofundme or follow this link https://www.gofundme.com/f/aid-tomas-in-his-bone-marrow-transplant-journey

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