This is our friend John Holmes.
John has an advanced metastic neo endocrine tumor, a high grade tumor similar to small cell lung cancer. His best chance of beating it is a course of injections of the immune inhibitor Pembrolizumab which is manufactured by MSD. Each injection will cost €5,111 and we have formed a fundraising committee called John Needs Pembro to help him pay for this treatment.
If you live in Kilkenny you either know John him or know of him.
John went to St. Patrick's De La Salle and St. Kieran's College. For many years he managed the family business which he took over from his father Jack Holmes.
On July 13th, 1991 he married Edel. They are blessed with two wonderful children - Jonathan and Louise. Both are talented runners so family trips to athletic events countrywide were a regular feature of the Holmes home life. John is rugby fan, a member of Kilkenny Rugby Football Club and a regular at Irish rugby internationals. Before his illness intervened he enjoyed golfing and fishing and, naturally, hurling.
As Christmas 2010 approached John was taking a long time to shake off a persistent cough. As men do, he ignored it but Edel wanted it sorted ahead of the festivities and sent him to the doctor. His GP did some routine test and didn't like what he saw. John was referred for further tests and on December, 29th, 2012 their world was turned upside down by the test results - John's initial diagnosis was the relatively rare Neuroendocrin, and this has now resulted in aggressive tumours of the throat and lung.
He was pitched into a world of exhausting chemotherapy cycles and painful invasive surgeries. In January 2014 surgeons removed his voice box in an effort to arrest the cancer's progress. It didn't work. The cancer came back. In May, 2016 his medical team gave up. They told him that they had concluded that 'no further intervention was advised' and sent him home to die.
'Well John, I'm not just going to let you die' - Prof. John Crown, September, 2016.
Through an incredible series of coincidences John's case came to his attention Professor. John Crown - Ireland's foremost oncologist. Intrigued by the rarity of John's condition, Professor Crown accepted the challenge.
After a regimen of enhanced aggressive chemotherapy ran its course, Professor Crown recommended three cycles of injections of Pembrolizumab (Merck brand name Keytruda), each cycle consisting of an injection once every three weeks for twenty-four weeks.
The first injection in the first cycle was administered on Wednesday, November 7th, 2018.
The problem is that Pembrolizumab is not currently licensed by the HSE for John, so he will have to conjure up €5,111 (scandalously, this includes VAT) ahead of each scheduled injection.
For eight years John has resisted the cancerous growth in his body. He has done so with dignity, courage and humour. His family provided inspirational support and, we, his friends have watched his defiance with awe.
But the time to be spectators as this heroic goal line defence plays out is over.
On Monday, November 5th, 2018 friends and family members formed a committee called JohnNeedsPembro.
JohnNeedsPembro is planning a series of fund raising efforts around Kilkenny to ensure that this rolling, three-week target of €5,111 is met.
John Holmes has faced down cancer for eight years. He has done so without self-pity or attention-seeking. He would not have allowed us to organise fundraising campaign which relies so heavily on public attention if it wasn't necessary.
If you remember John from your school days, your rugby days or have done business with him during his time (ongoing, by the way) as a member of Kilkenny's business community, or if you remember the craic in Maggie's in the late 80's - early 90's please consider supporting the JohnNeedsPembro Fundraising effort.
Please note that donations can also be made to our account at St. Canice's Credit Union, Kilkenny. The account name is 'John Needs Pembro' and the account number is 8553300
Lastly, a quick clarification of the 'Total Raised' amount you see on our GoFundMe page:
This total does not take account of the ongoing cost of John's infusions of Pembro. For example, on Tuesday, March 12th, 019 he had his seventh infusion. At €5,111 per infusion, his costs so far are €35,780.50
Please remember that every three weeks €5,111 is being subtracted from our total raised amount .
Please also see local Kilkenny media for details of upcoming events.