A 36-year-old local man who is battling brain cancer departed for Spain today (Monday) to obtain medical cannabis treatment which he is unable to access legally in Ireland.
Athlone native Kenny Tynan, a married father of four, was diagnosed last November with a recurrence of a brain tumour.
He said doctors here told him he needed a year of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiotherapy treatment to prolong his life. He is not prepared to follow this course, having heard “too many horror stories” about how such treatment affected others including his mother, Teresa, who died last year.
“Chemotherapy and radiation is basically poisoning your body to make it better. I saw what it did to my own mother,” he said.
“I know that everybody’s different, and that chemotherapy works wonders for certain people, but it made my mother very sick. For the last six months of her life she had no quality of life.”
Kenny sought an alternative and had a consultation with the Kalapa Clinic in Barcelona, where medical cannabis treatments can be prescribed. He has decided to undertake a course which a doctor there devised for him.
The plan requires him to move to Spain and live in an apartment for approximately three months while he takes strong doses of oils containing THC and CBD, active compounds found in cannabis.
“The THC content is what kills the cancer cells, but CBD is a non psycho-active cannabinoid which counteracts the balance of the psycho-active activity that happens with THC. You could compare the THC to a brillo pad, and the CBD is what washes it away,” he said.
A ‘crowdfunding’ campaign to raise money for his treatment was launched earlier this month and in the first six days 283 people made donations, raising €9,000.
Kenny, who is known for his involvement in the music scene locally, spoke to the Westmeath Independent at his home in Ballyforan on Friday, July 7.
He expressed gratitude for the huge response to the fundraising appeal and said he was determined to prove to the Irish Government that medical cannabis can be an effective treatment.
“I have to prove that it works,” he said. “I’m confident that it will definitely slow down the growth of (the tumour), if not stop it completely. It will do me no harm anyway.
“Cancer is so rife in this day and age. There’s no family that won’t get touched by it in some form and nobody wants to see their loved ones go through pain.”
Kenny is likely to be living alone in Spain, but he is hoping his family will be able to visit him there.
“I was eight days in hospital and you miss your kids so much when you don’t see them. I don’t know how I’m going to handle (being apart from them),” he said.
His first brain tumour was diagnosed after he suffered a seizure in February 2015. The tumour was surgically removed in April of that year.
“They got 100% of the tumour but they said there was a small chance that it could come back,” he explained.
Subsequent scans revealed what was first thought to be scar tissue, but at an appointment in Beaumont Hospital in November he was told that this was, in fact, a recurrence of the tumour.
Kenny outlined how the medical team at the hospital tried to convince him to undergo chemotherapy but he refused.
“I told them, I don’t want you giving me poison. You spill a little bit of chemotherapy on the floor and it burns the floor. So you can imagine what it’s doing to you. They said not all chemo is like that. I said what about cannabis treatment? They said they were not licensed to do that and they didn’t think they ever would be.
“I said, what if I dig in my heels and say, I don’t want radio, I don’t want chemo, I want cannabis treatment. They said, then we won’t help you.”
He said doctors told him that, without treatment, he would have a life expectancy of another two years. He had two seizures recently but said that, in general, he is feeling well.
“I feel personally that I’m a walking miracle because when you initially get a brain tumour removed, if it comes back a second time it comes back in a much more aggressive form. That doesn’t seem to be the case with me. I’m doing 2-3 kilometres of walking each day, and eating healthily.”
He said he has been boosting his immune system by taking high doses of natural remedies like Vitamin C, wheatgrass, and bitter apricot kernels.
Husband of Marie, Kenny is a father of four boys aged from two to seventeen years. The illness has changed his outlook on life.
“Cancer is a big burden on the family, but it surely wakes you up to life. It gives you a new grasp for life. I was never a spiritual man but every night, before I go to sleep, I thank God for everything that I have. For the children that I have, for my beautiful wife, for the support that she gives me, and the support my family gives me.
“Then when I wake up in the morning, I thank God for another day. Nobody is guaranteed tomorrow. I live each day as if it’s my last, because it could be. I could take a seizure tomorrow and not come out of it.”
He was initially reluctant to ask people for fundraising support for his treatment but said he would forever be grateful to everyone who has helped him surpass his initial fundraising target of €8,000 in a short space of time.
“You really see the goodness in people in times like this… I went to school in Dean Kelly NS and St Aloysius College and there were people donating who I hadn’t seen since my school days there. Then you have the family donating, and my wife’s work colleagues. It’s been brilliant.”
After previously playing with the band Skinsize Kings, Kenny now produces his own electronic music. He came second in an All Ireland DJ competition in Kerry a few weeks ago and the other participants in that event would be staging a fundraising night for him in Killorglin.
While getting ready to depart for Spain, he said he would not be leaving the country to access treatment if not for the ongoing prohibition on medical cannabis in Ireland.
He pointed out that there were some similarities between his case and that of a Cork mother, Vera Twomey, who campaigned for access to medical cannabis for her daughter, Ava, who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy called Dravets Syndrome. Vera recently travelled with her daughter to the Netherlands to access the CBD and THC cannabinoid treatment.
* The ‘Go Fund Me’ crowdfunding page for Kenny Tynan is entitled ‘Kennys Brain Cancer Treatment’ and can be found at: www.gofundme.com/kennys-brain-cancer-treatment