Michael Mullan was only a baby when he was diagnosed with cancer for the first time– specifically neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer which had a low survival rate. Since then, he has been forced to wage a back and forth battle with his disease. Michael is now 26 years old, and cancer has returned again. This is the third time that his cancer has appeared.
Neuroblastoma is the most common type of cancer found in babies, but it is still rare in overall occurrence. The cancer is derived from immature cells of the nervous system, and tumors can appear in a variety of places, most commonly the adrenal glands. The causes of this type of cancer is not well understood, but in some cases is can be inherited from the child’s parents. Neuroblastoma is exceptionally adept at relapse, even after intense chemotherapy treatment. To learn more about neuroblastoma, click here.
Years after his fight with neuroblastoma, cancer has returned to his life– this time appearing in his kidney. In his final year of college, he was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. It was his birthday; he was turning 22. Shortly after he moved to Boston after earning a scholarship to Harvard Law School, he was diagnosed with cancer for the third time– metastasized renal cell carcinoma. Michael had to endure bouts of chemotherapy and a partial nephrectomy as he worked his way through Trinity and Harvard, where he remained an exceptional student.
Through these trying circumstances, Michael persevered with strength, kindness, and ambition. He graduated from Trinity with honors, and finished his masters thesis from his hospital bed as he underwent chemotherapy. He hopes to work in disability law, defending a vulnerable group in our society.
In his spare time, Michael has been known for his willingness to give back to the cancer patient community, and has helped fundraise on multiple occasions. Michael was responsible for the organization of a Relay for Life event that generated £30,000, for example. He also frequented the cancer hospital where he was first treated for his neuroblastoma when he was a baby, giving gifts to the patients there.
As of now, he must stay in Boston as long as his financial situation will allow, in order to receive a specialized, targeted treatment that could be sufficient to save his life. He first started on a new immunotherapy, which was not guaranteed to work. Fortunately, it kept his cancer under control for a while, but eventually it took too great of a toll on his body. He changed treatments, and is now on cabozantinib, a chemotherapy that is not available in Ireland.
Michael recognizes how fortunate he was to be in a city with cancer centers that could offer him his best chance of survival. He is currently being treated by Dr. Toni Choueiri at Dana Farber Cancer Institute Boston. Dr. Choueiri is at the leading edge of innovative kidney cancer treatment, and his care has been effective and allowed Michael a relatively comfortable quality of life.
However, while Michael is grateful to be treated in Boston, he has been advised not to return to Ireland. This means that he and Mel, his girlfriend of nine years who has provided enormous assistance for him throughout this journey, cannot go home to avail of a larger network of support. His parents left their jobs to be with him for 9 months, but it is still challenging to battle cancer thousands of miles away from home.
Michael’s loved ones have started a fundraiser in order to help pay for his stay in Boston and for the treatment that he desperately needs; treatment is the United States is substantially more expensive than the treatment he was receiving in Ireland.
“If there is one thing I have learned throughout my cancer experience, it is that there should never be a price put on someone’s life, but for me, that’s my reality,” Michael explains.