‘I wouldn’t be where I am without her’

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As Daniel McBride toyed with the keys on his piano, he began thinking about all the people he had to thank.

The talented young composer knew how lucky he was to have the support of family and friends who had helped him through a devastating year.

SUPPORT Daniel McBride with his girlfriend, Meg Barber.  Picture: Paul Jacobs (121555-5)

SUPPORT Daniel McBride with his girlfriend, Meg Barber. Picture: Paul Jacobs (121555-5)

And he was grateful for his music which had allowed him focus on something other than the cancer that was attacking his body.

But there was one very special person to who he wanted send a message in the most personal and heartfelt way he knew.

Daniel played around with the first keys of For Meg – a composition for his girlfriend who had been a constant support since he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

The Gosport teenager had been with girlfriend Megan Barber for about seven months when he discovered he had the aggressive cancer that is extremely rare in young men.

IN TUNE Daniel McBride at the auditions for Instant Star in 2009

IN TUNE Daniel McBride at the auditions for Instant Star in 2009

‘I wouldn’t be where I am without her. If I’m upset she’s always there, she comes round in a flash,’ says Daniel, who is recovering from two operations and a particularly brutal cancer treatment.

‘She does things like making me brownies and when I was in hospital she brought some dinner in for me.

‘This gives you mood swings and there have been times when I’ve taken out some emotions on Meg, so I just wanted to do something to show how much I appreciate her. It’s been very hard for her too.’

The couple have found dealing with Daniel’s treatment particularly tough. Since his diagnosis in 2010 he’s had two operations and two courses of radio iodine – a treatment that left him living in isolation.

Because patients are radioactive after the procedure they must limit their contact with others and Daniel wasn’t allowed near other young people, including Meg. ‘I think that was the hardest thing,‘ says Meg.

‘Especially the second time because that was for a month.’

They couldn’t even see each other on Valentine’s Day.

‘I had to go to her house and leave her present and card on the doorstep. We could speak to each other but I was on the driveway,’ laughs Daniel, who has managed to stay positive about all the challenges his illness has thrown at him.

Meg, 17, is thrilled with the music she has inspired.

‘She plays it in the car all the time, it’s quite embarrassing,’ laughs Daniel.

And it has also impressed music experts at child cancer charity CLIC Sargent. For Meg has been selected for a CD produced by the charity featuring the work of young musicians affected by cancer.

Since his diagnosis in November 2010, 18-year-old Daniel has received the support of the charity.

A CLIC Sargent social worker would visit him in hospital and he also received a small grant because he had lost earnings from part-time work.

But the teenager has also been aided by his own attitude, which is nothing short of inspiring.

Before his diagnosis Daniel was, as he puts it, ‘on a roll’.

A year before, he had won The News Instant Star talent contest and had just started studying music at South Downs College.

He was happy with Meg and was also focusing on his ambition to go to music college.

When he noticed a lump in his neck, the violinist and pianist was unconcerned but also determined to have it removed.

‘I thought it was a cyst because my friend had had one removed. He had quite a cool scar and I wanted one too,’ says Daniel, mischievously.

But his operation would end up being more serious than he anticipated. Soon after visiting a specialist, Daniel was told he had thyroid cancer, which is extremely rare for his age group, only affecting about six in a million males under 21.

The cancer had also spread to his lymph nodes and Daniel needed two operations to have his thyroid – a gland in the neck that produces hormones – and some of his lymph nodes removed.

He says: ‘Of course I was really upset when I was told, but I actually started accepting it and getting on with things pretty quickly. I just didn’t want it to stop me doing anything.

‘I’m quite an optimist and I like to get on with things. I’ve almost learned to separate it from the things going on in my life.’

Daniel is also grateful for his family, particularly his mum Karen who was one of the only people he had direct contact with him during his radio iodine treatment.

But even that contact was limited. Daniel had to stay in the spare room because he couldn’t contaminate his own bedroom with radiation and Karen would take up his meals.

He could go for walks but had to stay away from people. And for the second period of treatment he felt extremely ill and tired.

Daniel increasingly turned to his music for comfort and inspiration, but even that was a challenge at times.

He had to wear latex gloves to play the piano because his sweat contained radiation.

‘I think I gave up in the end but I was still able to write music,’ he says.

As well as For Meg, Daniel also wrote a piece for Karen for Mother’s Day. Again, he wanted to say thank you for the support she had given him with his music – Daniel’s chief emotional outlet.

The thyroid is sometimes known as the ‘activity’ gland because it produces the two main hormones needed to keep the body functioning at its normal rate.

As well as the fact that he’s had to cope with a cancer diagnosis, Daniel’s condition and treatment has caused a lot of tiredness and emotional ups and downs.

‘My music has really helped. When I write music, it’s my way of getting emotions out. And actually it’s given me a lot to write about,’ he says.

Daniel is still enjoying studying music at South Downs College and is making plans for music college auditions.

He is a member of a string quartet and he has been approached by professionals though his Facebook page and commissioned to write pieces. He is now looking for a sponsor to help him with his studies and getting into music college.

He feels much better but still gets tired and although his treatment has been extremely positive and the few remaining cancer cells are being contained, further treatment isn’t ruled out.

‘It’s a bit of a waiting game, but the treatment has worked well,’ says Daniel, adding: ‘I’m just staying positive.’