You may have heard of potty humour, well Kieran McLeod likes to do ‘tumour humour’.
Laughter is all he had left to do after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour when he was 13 years old.
“One of the things that has always gotten me through it is what I call tumour humour,” Kieran said.
“I find it makes people more comfortable.”
The Bremer State High School student performed a comedy skit at his school’s variety night in May and hopes to do more comedy work in the future.
For now it’s often his family on the end of his jokes.
“I like to say ‘who are you?’ to mum sometimes just for fun,” he said.
But Kieran wasn’t laughing when he started getting double vision two years ago.
“I had been stable for nearly four years I went for a MRI and it showed the tumour had grown,” he said.
“Then six weeks later it had grown again.
“The doctors said they would have to operate to do a biopsy so they could determine the type of tumour so they could treat it more effectively.
“I was given only two to five years to live, I was 16 years old.”
This was the second time Kieran was booked in for brain surgery.
The first time was when his tumour was discovered in 2014, when a really bad headache would just not go away.
The growing tumour was causing his brain to swell inside his skull and the flow of Kieran’s spinal fluid had been blocked.
Surgeons drilled a hole in his skull to drain the fluid so the swelling of his brain could go down.
The McLeods knew what was involved, but this second brain surgery was not as straight forward.
As the operating theatre filled with an army of medical staff, the neurosurgeon explained to the McLeods what was about to happen in detail.
“On the table they explained with the surgery I might lose the ability to make short term memories forever.
“So we cancelled that and instead I did chemo for all of 2018 and radiation therapy.”
By the end of 2018 the tumour had started to shrink when in January this year, doctors found a cyst had developed on his tumour.
Kieran was named Young Citizen of the Year at the Ipswich City Council Australia Day Awards in January this year, a week later the cyst had grown in size in just one week.
His parents packed up the car and they set off to see a brain surgeon in Sydney they had heard about through the Brain Cancer Foundation.
“He looked at my scans and said ‘I reckon I can get all that,’” he said.
“I was shocked.”
The McLeods were always told his brain tumour was inoperable.
They always had hope but suddenly here was a real chance of beating his brain cancer.
Within a week, five years after being told he had inoperable brain cancer, Kieran had the surgery removing his tumour and cyst completely.
What is a brain tumour?
A brain tumour is a lump of abnormal cells growing in your brain.
There are many types of brain tumours.
Some common types of primary brain tumours are gliomas (including astrocytomas and glioblastomas), meningiomas and medulloblastomas.
It’s not known what causes brain tumours.
Almost half of all brain and spinal cord tumours are malignant.
Kieran’s tumour was a polysystic astrocytoma, considered a rare disease. It is a slow growing tumour of the brain or spinal cord, Kieran’s was midbrain.
Always the jokester Kieran said it was “a lot off his mind”.
He could have been left with left side weakness from the surgery but he has had none of that since his surgery in February.
He is cancer free and should be able to live his life without the threat of a terminal illness looming.
However, when he went for his latest scan they could see “something” in there.
‘It could be scar tissue, we will just have to wait and see, that last MRI was a bit of a kick in the guts.” Kieran said.
Kieran’s next MRI is in November and his friends and family all have their fingers crossed.
“The important thing is having a positive outlook and having a joke with it,” Kieran said.
“I have met a lot of families living with brain tumours and I am one of the lucky ones who gets to sit here and talk about having had a brain tumour.”
For now Kieran is a man on a mission.
He is due to complete Grade 12 this year and he is working to raise awareness and funds for research.
“My use-by date has been extended from shelf produce to that of a can in a deep freezer,” he said.
“But brain cancer lingers on your mind, quite literally, and it will always be a part of me.
“I got lucky, but it is incredibly important that we do what we can to help those who cannot yet say that.”
Kieran has organised Walk4BrainCancer Ipswich, which he is holding for the second year, on Sunday, 15 September at Limestone Park.
Last year he was able to raise $15,000 for research for the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation and he hopes to top that this year.
“The five-year survival rate currently stands at only five per cent for those with glioblastomas,” he said.
“The goal is to bring the survival rates up to 50 per cent by 2023.
“So if you feel like stomping around a park roughly 6250 times, then come along to Walk4BrainCancer Ipswich 2019, and help us stomp out brain cancer.”
Inspiring people seems to be something that Kieran is excelling at.
Walk 4 Brain Cancer Ipswich is a 5km walk to support people impacted by brain cancer.
When: Sunday, 15 September at 8am
Where: Limestone Park, 42 Chermside Road, Ipswich
Cost: $10 for children and $20 for adults
“It is always possible to bring a little light into any darkness you are facing, it is always possible to find humour in anything, love hard, love often and be kind,” he said.