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Mother shares young son’s emotive cancer journey

September 15, 2014

As part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (September), a Silverbridge mother has shared her family’s emotional journey following the diagnosis of her young son two years ago.

Michelle Grant has joined with the Cancer Fund for Children charity to help raise awareness of childhood cancer and how it affects not just the young patient, but the family as a whole.

Her young son, Peter, was just five years old when a cancerous tumour was discovered behind his eye.  For Michelle and dad Miceal, along with older sister Alannah, the diagnosis came as a huge and terrifying shock.  Peter immediately underwent an operation, followed by nine months of chemotherapy.

The traumatic time took its toll on the whole family as little Peter struggled to cope with the treatment.

Recalling how Peter’s illness affected the family, Michelle said:“It was just such a shock, I can’t even put into words how we felt.

“Peter was violently sick as a result of the chemo and he had to be held down for it to be administered. It was awful seeing my child going through that. He used to ask ‘why are you doing this to me?’”

“Normal family life disappeared too. I spent a lot of time at the hospital with Peter. Our lives consisted of hospital food and sleepless nights.  Peter’s older sister Alannah, who was 10, stayed at home with her dad or her granny. It was hard leaving her behind.

Michelle recalled how special family occasions were particularly difficult to deal with: “One of the lowest points was Alannah’s confirmation. Peter was not allowed to attend and I remember just sitting in the church crying because he wasn’t there.”

The isolation was another difficult element during the course of Peter’s treatment.

“When Peter was home I went into protective mode and battened down the hatches. Nobody was allowed in the house due to the risk of infection. Living on a farm and having a wee boy that just loves tractors and animals – this was very difficult.”

Now, two years on, Peter is doing really well and still attends hospital for regular check ups.  Although he is recovering physically, Michelle says that psychologically he is still fragile.

“He hates going to the hospital even for a routine appointment,” she said. “When he knows there is an upcoming hospital visit, he is like a different child. There is always a fight about it. He won’t eat any of the food while he’s there as he associates it with a place that made him feel sick.”

Michelle explained how the Cancer Fund for Children’s support helped during this difficult time.

“We enjoyed a therapeutic short break and residential support which helped us relax and recharge,” she explained.

“This gave us the chance to meet other families in a similar situation and chat to people who really understood what we were going through.

“Our Specialist, Lynn Wilson, was fantastic, and Alannah loved her one-to-one sessions. She felt a bit left out when Peter was ill, but the time spent with Lynn was ‘her time’. Lynn was someone she could talk to about anything. It helped her cope and feel included.”

Alannah added: “It gave me a chance just to talk to Lynn about anything that was worrying me and we did fun activities.”

Lynn, who has been working with the Grant family since Peter was diagnosed, is part of Cancer Fund for Children’s team of dedicated specialists, who are there to listen and help families cope with the impact cancer has on their lives.

Lynn explained further the benefits of one-to-one support: “Activities provided an opportunity for Alannah to talk about her experiences and to express her feelings and emotions while Peter was on treatment and while the family was isolated.

“The Grant family’s story illustrates how childhood cancer is not just a medical issue, but one that affects the whole family. Some issues families may face throughout a cancer journey include isolation, psychological problems and financial hardship.

“Cancer Fund for Children understands that long-term effects do not stop just because treatment is completed. Our specialist team offers dedicated one to one, sibling and bereavement support, as well as free therapeutic breaks to help rebuild a shattered family life.”

During September, Michelle, together with the Cancer Fund for Children, is calling on families, colleagues, schools, church groups and friends to get together and hold a ‘Hug in a Mug coffee morning’ to raise funds for the charity.

All money raised through the events will help the charity provide practical, emotional and financial support as well as free short breaks for local families affected by cancer.

To register for a free Coffee Morning Pack, visit www.cancerfundforchildren.com/events or contact Alex by phone 028 9080 5599 or email alex@cancerfundforchildren.com.

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