Music gave my son the strength to fight

Music gave son strength fight

Heather Doran recounts the battle she and her son have fought with his Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Two years ago the local Irish community in Wembley came to the assistance of their young neighbour, teenager Joseph Doran, thanks largely to the tireless efforts of his mum, Heather.

Joe was then, and is today, battling that life-changing cancer Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Heather, with neighbours and the local community, organised a fundraiser at what used to be St Joseph’s Social Club in Wembley.

“The community were amazing to us then and have remained supportive of Joe throughout the last two years,” Heather told the Irish World this week. Here, Heather recounts, in her own words, what happened next: “Since the fundraiser in November 2015 it’s been a roller coaster of ups and downs, tears and triumphs.

“Joe had a scan not long after and it seemed he had beaten it and was in remission… unfortunately he relapsed in February 2016.

“He was moved from wonderful care at Northwick Park Hospital to the Teenage Cancer Trust in University College London Hospital in Euston, London where he received another five rounds of chemotherapy, an operation to put in a picc line and remove a portacath, a neck biopsy, a stem cell collection all in preparation for an Autologous Stem Cell transplant – his own cells – which happened in July of last year.

“The transplant was gruelling and at one point there was a period of 36 hours where we thought we might lose Joe.

“But his blood results started to improve and he started to recover from the treatment, took his driving test and was able to buy a car with the money so kindly raised by the fundraiser.


“This overwhelming generosity by our local community, family and friends enabled him to go to University and lead a reasonably normal life – so long as he stayed away from crowds and public transport as much as possible because he is always at risk from viruses and infections.

We were over the moon, thought the battle was won and he had beaten this monster. So we took off our flak jackets, he returned to University to re-sit his first year as he had missed his exams but the scan in early December of last year showed an enlarged lymph node in his chest.

“We had to wait throughout Christmas suffering until the middle of January of this year for a rescan. We then heard the news we were dreading, that his cancer Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was back, for the third time. I cannot adequately express in words how devastating the conversation with his consultant was to him and to all who love him.

“The rugs were ripped from under us all.

In his own words after three weeks of nobody able to talk about the fears in our minds, he said: ‘Mam I don’t know how to anchor myself, what do I do to get through this?’ He knew how much he is loved by his family, and his girlfriend Catherine, but needed to channel the anger and frustration into something.

His answer was his music. Joe started another five rounds of ground breaking chemotherapy in preparation for the big life saving treatment, a donor stem cell transplant. Not just one but three donors were found quickly – I’d never been so happy to be called common. He was told he was clear of cancer in April of this year and the transplant would go ahead in the May.

“Even with the all clear he still had to undergo the transplant as UCLH said the cancer would return without it. We were advised to go on a family holiday for some down time from treatment and to build some memories, you know, just in case.

We gave him the choice of ‘once in a lifetime’ trips – the Northern lights? Disney? The Caribbean? None of the above, he just wanted to drive to Ireland in case he never got the chance to again. A two car road trip to the Cliffs of Moher, with walkie-talkies, was organised and we set off. It was a truly wonderful time – for him, his siblings James and Katie, cousins, girlfriend Catherine, his mum and family.

Whelan’s in Dublin

Joe even played a gig in Whelan’s pub in Dublin.

He started the transplant on 3 May and came out of hospital on 29 May sore, tired and hairless, once again, but already planning ahead. The hospital has always been impressed with his determination to keep going and keep positive.

During the last two years despite being incredibly ill he has done charity gigs for Marie Curie, Willows and Hoodies for Homeless.

He has performed on Harrow Radio, at The Phoenix Festival and twice on Talk Radio’s Jon Holmes busker sessions.

He would have returned to university this year but couldn’t because of his impaired immune system but he did have a scan in August and was told there was no sign of cancer. I cannot tell you how great this news was for us all. He will have scans every three months for the next few years. As I said a little earlier, one of the ways he got through all this – and continues to – is his music. So with all that pent up frustration he channeled his emotions into his music.

He wrote and produced his first EP A World Without You, even recording some of the tracks in his car on that very special road trip, the photos of the Cliffs of Moher on the EP cover are from that trip.

He is still on lots, and lots of medication and it’s never all plain sailing but he is not going to let it stop him launch his EP this Friday (17 November) at the Windemere Pub in South Kenton. Of course, every mum is proud of their son, and thinks he can do no wrong and thinks he is the best at whatever he does but I am so, so proud of Joe and I hope everyone loves his EP as much as I do.

See Joseph Doran Music on Facebook or

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