David McClarty speaks of hope through cancer battle

David McClarty
David McClarty

An MLA who was stricken with cancer aims to be “full steam ahead” again by the New Year.

Independent unionist David McClarty said he refused to lie down in the face of his illness, and is hopeful of being able to lead a normal life before too long.

When The News Letter spoke to the Londonderry East MLA this week, he was just returning from his sixth and final chemotherapy session at Antrim Area Hospital; a treatment which he began in May.

“You arrive in sheer trepidation,” he said.

“You see this place full of individuals of all ages with various forms of cancer.

“(But) cancer is not the word it used to be. There’s so much that can be done for people nowadays. The doctors, when I was first diagnosed, were positive, and that positivity was transferred to myself.”

Besides the loss of hair and some diminished tastebuds, he has suffered few ill-effects from the treatment.

“Obviously it’ll take a wee while to get back to full health and strength. But 14 weeks ago I couldn’t even wash myself. I just had no energy whatsoever.

“But as the treatment started, that strength began to return. Small things then become huge achievement. Being able to wash myself was a major achievement.”

His nerve-wracking journey began in April when he was diagnosed with lymphoma, a blood cancer.

He believes it could have been fatal had he not sought medical advice when he did.

“It puts a whole new perspective on very many things, and on life itself – what is, and isn’t important,” he said.

“Perhaps in many ways I put a lot of time into my work, and probably ignored family life in some ways.”

The 62-year-old father of two, who has three grandkids, aims to return to work in stages, starting in October.

“My condition’s been improving hugely, and hopefully I’ll be able to lead a normal life again,” he said.

“Work-wise, I’d like to think we’ll be full steam ahead in the New Year. That’s my hope, that’s my goal, and that’s what I’m working towards.”

Back in July, when he made an appearance at the Assembly, spontaneous applause broke out – a rare display of human affection in the frequently fraught and divided chamber.

When it comes to fellow MLAs, Mr McClarty is just one of a number who recently faced the “Big C” – DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt had spoken out before about battling bowel cancer, and Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan revealed only this month he had prostate cancer.

Mr McClarty’s message for any other sufferers was this: “People react in different ways. You either lie down, or you stand up and fight. I’ve been positive and I have been from Day one with the help of my family and friends...

“There are people perhaps who get a diagnosis and suffer the same fear and trepidation I have in the past. If it gives them encouragement, I’m happy to do this.”