herald

Tuesday 19 June 2018

'I knew I'd beat cancer but not having a child was my big fear'

Chris Latham and Marie O'Driscoll with Jack (2)
Chris Latham and Marie O'Driscoll with Jack (2)

Little Jack is the most cherished toddler to his dad Chris Latham, who feared he'd never cradle his own child, after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Holding his beautiful little two-year-old boy is a pleasure Chris will never take for granted.

With baby number two on the way, it really seems the 31-year-old from Stillorgan, Dublin, has been blessed.

Chris conquered the cancer that could have claimed his life at such a young age and went on to become a father despite the treatment, which he was told could have rendered him infertile.

"I never worried about dying from cancer, I always felt I'd be OK. But the one thing I did worry most about was not being able to have children," Chris said.

"To think I have everything I've ever wanted today is just amazing. We have a great family and we value it so much. We know it might never have happened."

Chris was only 19 when he suffered what he believed to be tonsillitis. He went to the GP who prescribed antibiotics and he seemed to feel better but just weeks later his sore throat was back, along with a lump on the side of his neck.

This time the antibiotics didn't work and Chris went to St Vincent's Hospital because "I couldn't even swallow water", he said.

After tests, Chris, who is now engaged to his girlfriend Marie O'Driscoll, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

He went through arduous bouts of chemotherapy.

"But I always remained positive," Chris said. "I was 19, I never for one moment thought I wasn't going to beat it. But the one thing that did worry me was that I might not be able to have children."

Chris had been told by medics that having kids might never be an option after the treatment, so he froze his sperm in the hope he could still become a father one day.

But it played on his mind throughout the years.

Twist

In a bizarre twist, Ms O'Driscoll was told she too could have problems conceiving as she suffered from polycystic ovary syndrome.

"The first pregnancy wasn't planned because Marie was told it would be hard to conceive, so we didn't expect to become parents," Chris said.

"We thought we'd have to go to get IVF if we wanted a chance. But as it turned out and luckily enough, Jack was born and is as healthy as can be.

"Now Marie is pregnant with our second child. She's just had the 20-week scan for baby number two. It was everything for me to be a dad and I'm so happy we got what we wanted most of all, despite everything that could have gone against us.

"Jack is amazing. I love being a dad and can't wait for the second baby. We know how lucky we are and Marie is my new rock behind my mother."

Chris believes the "mental strength" he had during his cancer fight helped him to be a more positive person and he thanked his family, including his mother Anne, sisters Alli and Ruth, and his mother's partner Norman Stoddart, and all his friends, for helping him through.

Chris, who got the all-clear two years ago, contacted the Irish Cancer Society last year and offered his services to help anyone struggling.

He has been in contact with a youth care group, which helps young people who have had a cancer diagnosis.

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