It is almost exactly two years since young Daniel began secondary school. All dressed up in his new uniform, white crisp shirt and blazer, so different a look to his usual choice of tracksuit or football kit. He looked so very handsome, and yet still cheeky! Dan only got to wear his uniform for six weeks. Daily he complained of feeling more and more tired, and became less like the Daniel we knew, even falling asleep after a game of football. Eventually he was admitted for tests and very quickly we discovered Dan had leukemia.
September is childhood cancer awareness month.
It is a month in the year when we remember the many children here in Ireland and around the world, this very day, who are fighting with everything they have, to live. It is a month in which we can remember the many families who are missing a little one from their lives, who took family photos of siblings going to school for the first time, while holding up a photo of a missing brother or sister. Families who have lost a much loved child. It is also a month in which we celebrate those children who made it through cancer, who are today running around, playing with friends. Back home after many months of treatment. Cancer free.
Childhood cancer awareness month is a month in which we can highlight the many different charities out there who support children and families during the darkest days in their lives. These charities are not that well known because thankfully many of us have never had any contact with them. So tonight I’d like to highlight one of them.
Those of you who read my blog regularly may remember that I spoke of this charity before. It is Aoibheanns Pink Tie, a charity began by a father who lost his eight year old princess, Aoibheann to cancer. I have written about Jimmy Norman and this charity before in this post here. This charity offers practical help to families who are undergoing chemotherapy in St Johns Ward, Crumlin.
When a child is diagnosed with cancer many parents will not be in a position to return to work. There will be transport costs, accommodation costs, childcare costs and difficulties, as well as medical costs. Imagine the worry of all that on top of the worry that your little one may die. For these families APT is there. They are also there to help with little things, and it is often these little things that mean so much.
For instance on a young childs birthday APT sends a gift by post, because we all know there is nothing like a parcel arriving in the post to put a smile on a child’s face. They have a wonderful team who travel the country painting the walls of the bedrooms of some of these children with amazing murals. However my favourite thing this charity does is that it provides the children who have Hickman lines with dry suits. This allows children, who may have these lines in place for a couple of years, to play in paddling pools or enjoy splashing in the sea with family and friends on a hot Summers day, instead of looking on from afar and missing out on an essential part of childhood.
Lastly Childhood Cancer Awareness Month allows us to highlight the advances being made in the treatment of Cancer, and the need for us all to consider financially supporting those programes. When Dan was first diagnosed we held tight to the figure that 85% of those with Acute Lymphoid Leukemia survive. Within two weeks we discovered that Daniels leukemia was not as straightforward as it was hoped. A new regime of chemo had to begin, a new drug would be used and hopefully this would work. Fifteen years ago that drug did not exist. The rapid advances in cancer treatment as a result of research meant that Daniel got a chance. A chance we were so very grateful to get so early in his diagnosis.
This month is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This month I remember Daniel, and salute those who worked so hard to save his life, and those amazing people in APT who are there to support families during the worst days in their lives.
For more information on Aoibheanns Pink Tie please check out their facebook page here, and maybe even give them a like.