Empty Chairs – Harry McDaid

Currently, thanks to advances in research and treatments, three out of every four people diagnosed with blood cancer in Northern Ireland survive. Harry McDaid is one of those people.

Harry, who lives in Belfast, had no symptoms before his blood cancer diagnosis. He had just returned from Spain, where he was celebrating forty years of marriage when he received a call from his GP to say that the results of his routine blood tests were unusual. Two weeks later he was diagnosed with blood cancer.

Harry said: “The doctor told me I had Multiple Myeloma, a condition I had not heard of before. I asked what the outlook was and he told me that while there was no known cure, there existed a range of very effective treatments.”

These treatments started almost immediately and predictably included a program of chemotherapy. Meanwhile, Harry developed a simple little survival plan the first item of which was to advise no-one other than his immediate family.

Harry reflects: “I didn’t see the need to inform others about my blood cancer. It was a matter private to me. I felt better able to handle it within a tight family unit so I told my four grown up children, but not my siblings or colleagues That was the case for about nine months.”
Not letting blood cancer interfere with his working life was another coping mechanism for Harry. He continued to lead his business, and worked right through to the time of his bone marrow transplant in January 2016. Work allowed him to have a reference point outside of his illness. It was something else to concentrate on and became a form of therapy.

After his transplant, Harry spent seven weeks in rehabilitation. While he has experienced some minor side effects, he hasn’t allowed these to upset his life. It is now three years since his diagnosis and he believes he has learned a great deal from his experience of illness. He has always been positive in his attitude to life and never more so than these past three years.

More than anything else Harry points towards “the world class quality of care” from the consultants, doctors and nursing team in the Bridgewater Suite in the City Hospital. Without “their skills, professionalism and support”, he says, “the journey through blood cancer would have been so much more difficult”.

Research done by scientists, like those funded by Leukaemia & Lymphoma right here in Belfast, continues to work towards developing new and more effective treatments for blood cancer. Their work means that people like Harry can have a life with blood cancer. He is a survivor.

We’d love it if you shared Harry’s story and spread the word. Together, we can help reduce the number of empty chairs created by blood cancer.


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