Cancer shock spurs efforts for young dad

Neil McCready, his wife Sarah and their son Myles.
Neil McCready, his wife Sarah and their son Myles.

Friends and relatives of a young dad diagnosed with terminal cancer have been overwhelmed by the response to a campaign to send him, with his family, to Disneyland Paris.

The fundraising campaign for local man Neil McCready (27) - who was given no more than two years to live after what he believed to be gout turned out to be a rare cancer called Synovial Sarcoma - brought in £14,000 to pay for the family trip and help support them during the tough times ahead.

According to his great-aunt, Doris Fairfull, Neil - at 6’9” a “strong, gentle giant” - met the news of his illness “head on” and now means to donate £1,000 each to the Synovial Sarcoma Fund and MacMillan Cancer to help people in similar circumstances to his own.

Married for just four years, and father to Myles, who turns three in August, Dunmurry man Neil is active in the community, as a drummer in Kilmakee Presbyterian Church band, a Boys’ Brigade officer and a member of Lambeg Orange and Blue Flute Band.

Neither smoker nor drinker, the Seymour Hill man attended Lisburn’s Lagan Valley Hospital, with a sore neck, on January 1 this year; lesions were discovered on each of his lungs and later identified, at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, as malignant tumours.

Mystified doctors were finally able to determine, when Neil mentioned suffering from gout, that the lung tumours were secondary to what was in fact Stage Four Synovial Sarcoma in his right foot.

The cancer, he was told, could be treated with chemotherapy but could not be cured; Neil was given 18-24 months to live.

“The news brought devastation to the family,” said Doris, “with everyone in tatters, in particular his mother and grandparents and aunt.”

Neil’s aunt, Amanda, other family and friends, organised a fundraiser, enlisting the aid of Ceasar Kenny, Robbie Patterson and their Lambeg Orange and Blue Flute bandmates for an event in Lisburn’s Blues Club, businesses far and wide providing raffle prizes to add to money donated by way of a JustGiving page set up by the band.

Neil’s employers, SNL, likewise set up a JustGiving page, while his stepdad David’s colleagues at Boots held a charity night and Neil’s former colleague Andre Harwood organised a charity football match; local Seymour Hill football club, Seycon Park, staged a number of charity events and Denise Hooke organised a spiritual Medium event and raffle prizes.

Other events saw relatives organise a tea party and a Zumbathon. while one, Sylvia, shaved her head to raise cash.

The £14,000 raised, said Doris, far exceeded expectations.

“Neil is moved and overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of what everyone has done on his behalf,” she added, “and in particular the kind words from well-wishers.”

On behalf of Neil, his mother Diane Magee, grandparents Elsie and Roy McCready, other family and friends, Doris thanked everyone - individuals, clubs and businesses - who organised and/or attended events, donated money and/or prizes or in any way contributed to fundraising efforts.

“Neil and the family are truly humbled by your generosity and kindness,” she said.

Neil recently underwent his third course of chemotherapy, suffering a number of infections as the treatment took its toll, but it’s hoped he will be strong enough come early September to make the trip to Disneyland Paris with his family.