Aaron is looking forward to celebrating Christmas

Shanagarry teen Aaron McMahon underwent life-saving treatment in the US in the summer. Sarah Horgan chats to Aaron and his dad Paul about life since the operation and what comes next.
Aaron is looking forward to celebrating Christmas

Aaron McMahon preparing for Christmas with his mum Gail, at their home in Shanagarry. Pictures: David Keane

A CORK teen is set to return to the US hospital where he received treatment after a brain tumour left his life hanging in the balance.

For Aaron McMahon, it was a life-saving intervention and he will now return to Pittsburgh for follow-up treatment to minimise the risk of recurrence.

But, despite that, the Shanagarry teen is firmly focused on celebrating Christmas and returning to school in 2019 to complete his Leaving Cert.

Before his operation, Aaron had already discussed funeral plans with his family after medical professionals in Ireland offered little hope of a recovery. With the help of a Go Fund Me campaign, the 18-year-old was able to relocate to Pittsburgh with his family to undergo surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) last July. The successful operation saw surgeons remove the entire tumour.

A team of five surgeons was involved in the chordoma surgery, including ear, nose and throat specialist along with their assistants.

Aaron is now recovering at his home in Shangarry, but will return to the US for follow up treatment later this month.

The family are determined to make it home for their first “real Christmas” and have already started decorating to make up for lost time.

Aaron’s father Paul said: “Gail (Aaron’s mum) is joking that if you stand still in our house long enough she’ll decorate you,” he joked.

“This will be our first Christmas in three years. In 2016, Aaron wasn’t able to enjoy it. Even little things like the flickering lights on the tree affected his eyes. By 2017, he was very sick and deteriorating rapidly. This one will be the big one.”

Paul said that while Aaron has made a lot of progress, he still has a long way to go.

“People think that because the tumour is removed this is over, but it is far from over. Removing the tumour bought us valuable time but there is still a risk of recurrence. At the moment Aaron looks perfect. His pain levels are nothing like before, but he’s still going through the healing process. Aaron only went through the surgery last July but it feels like years as we’ve been through so much as a family.”

Gail spoke of her excitement about the festive season.

“Our main objective is to have Christmas at home this year,” she said.

“This is the first time I’m decorating the outside of the house. Right now I’m having baubles thrown at me right left and centre. The whole family is adamant they want to celebrate Christmas.”

Aaron said he has a number of goals for 2019. “School is going to be a lot harder than it was before, but I still really want to get my Leaving Cert,” he said.

“My biggest achievement to date was beating cancer but making it to number one on i-tunes comes in at a close second. I would like to do a bit more songwriting and maybe learn the keyboard. But mainly I’d like to do everything I can to thank everyone who helped me get to where I am.”

A song titled ‘One in a Million’, penned by Aaron and performed by rock band Goldfish Syndrome, reached number One on iTunes last July. The video was filmed in Aaron’s school, where the band’s lead vocalist James Walsh works as a teacher. Funds raised from the songs went towards the teen’s treatment and travel abroad.

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