Cian’s story: Three and Cancer-Free

Cian and his mother, Sarah, at Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic.
Cian and his mother, Sarah, at Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic.

2014 is a year Cian Byrne’s family will never forget. In the spring, the 2-year- old went in for his annual physical and his doctor determined he was anemic. Even with iron supplements, his iron levels continued to drop. That August, Cian started limping, which concerned his parents, Sarah and her husband. Cian’s primary care physician ran a number of tests, but couldn’t find a reason for the limp. Cian was sent home with instructions for Sarah and her husband to watch him and return if anything changed.

By mid-September, Cian was saying that his back hurt and he was crying out in pain. Sarah knew something was wrong and they returned to the primary care physician. Cian’s doctor felt something in his stomach: a tumor that turned out to be hepatoblastoma, a rare form of liver cancer.

Within a day of his diagnosis, the Byrnes met with Cian’s expert team at Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic and he started chemotherapy one week later. Cian went through four rounds of treatment before having his tumor and three-quarters of his liver removed in January 2015.

“He was such a trouper,” said Sarah. “I can’t imagine being in that much pain and smiling.”

During his treatment, Sarah had to quit her job to care for her son. It wasn’t easy, but she had a lot of support.

“So many people stepped up to help us,” she said. “There were so many things that we couldn’t do that others did for us. Cian’s illness brought so many people together. I hope that someday he will give of himself the way people have given to us.”

Cian went through two more rounds of chemotherapy, and remained strong throughout it all. The Byrnes credit Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic with giving Cian some sense of normality in the midst of crisis. When they were in the Clinic for treatment, Cian wasn’t out of place—he was just another kid. They were surrounded by a supportive group of families who were all going through the same thing.

Cian finished treatment in early March and on St. Patrick’s Day, the Byrnes learned Cian was cancer-free. It was also Cian’s birthday. They celebrated with a huge “three and cancer-free” party! Today, when Cian isn’t at home playing with his big brother, Owen, or watching the Boston Bruins, he is enjoying his first year of school. He loves sports, monster trucks, and superheroes.

Cian celebrated his last day of chemotherapy on March 2, 2015 and on St. Patrick’s Day was cancer-free.

Sarah can’t help but gush about how proud she is of Cian. In her eyes, he is more of a superhero than any of the comic book characters he idolizes.

“Children are really strong, but some of the resources they need are still not there. There are not enough new medications for children’s cancers, so a lot of times these children are treated with drugs that are really harsh on a child,” Sarah says.

“Cian has hearing loss because of the treatment he received. If more research into children and cancer can be done at a place like Dana-Farber, so many children could receive the treatment they need with minimal damage. These children are our future, why wouldn’t you help them?”

Please support adults and children like Cian at Dana-Farber. Make a gift on #GivingTuesday, 12.1.15. Help Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fundraise $1 million to fight cancer!

Elizabeth Furilla
Account Manager/Writer, Development Communications