Sunday 22 October 2017

'Don't take your kids for granted' - Mum whose daughter Cliona (15) died from cancer

Alex, Orla (5), Molly (7), Lorna (2) and Sharon Forysth
Alex, Orla (5), Molly (7), Lorna (2) and Sharon Forysth
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

A mother who lost her only daughter to cancer is pleading with the public to "not take their kids for granted" and to help raise funds for other families in need.

Brendan and Terry Ring set up the Cliona Foundation after their fifteen-year-old daughter Cliona passed away from cancer in 2006.

Cliona Ring passed away from cancer
Cliona Ring passed away from cancer

"One day when she was seven she walked into the blackboard at school and we thought it was very strange because she should have seen it.

"We noticed her eyes were crossed and we took her straight away to the doctor. It was confirmed that she had a brain tumour and doctors said that it was inoperable.

"It was a huge shock to our family. It was absolutely horrendous."

Terry, who has an older son named Colm, said that the family had no financial support and that medical expenses quickly added up.

Terry and Brendan Ring
Terry and Brendan Ring

"We had great friends and family around us but we were financially drained."

Cliona underwent 18 months of chemotherapy but sadly passed away at fifteen-years-old in December 2006.

"A loss of a child is not God's wish, it's not a family's wish.

"We all distantly remove ourselves from the thought, not knowing when it's going to knock on your door."

After Cliona's passing, friends and family wanted to do something in her memory and so they set up the Cliona Foundation to help other families.

"We were inspired by other families we met. We provide financial support and expanded into counselling servcies.

"We're doing it completely independent from the state."

Terry said that fundraising usually dries up in the summer time as it can be a costly time for parents.

"We wish we had the support when Cliona was sick. It was a difficult time when we heard our child had an inoperable brain tumour, we could have done without the stress of the financial costs.

"When you're in a deep and dark place with your child, the last thing you want to worry about is money."

The Cliona Foundation has supported over 430 families with 13 cheques gone out to families last weekend alone.

The foundation also provides support for "shadow children" who are often ignored because their parents have a very sick child.

Alex, Orla (5), Molly (7), Lorna (2) and Sharon Forysth
Alex, Orla (5), Molly (7), Lorna (2) and Sharon Forysth

"They also experience the trauma and can act out or misbehave.  They witness their siblings going into cardiac arrest or having fits and they need to be looked after too," said Brendan.

"Don't take your children for granted. Be grateful for every moment you spend with them and every holiday you get to bring them on. We'd be very grateful if people could help us by donating."

Mother-of-three, Sharon Forsyth, praised the Cliona Foundation for the "tremendous" support that they provided to her family.

"My youngest daughter Lorna was diagnosed with a rare metabolic condition when she was eight-months-old.

"Our lives were turned upside down. We were constantly in and out of hospital and we have two other daughters too aged seven and five, so it was very difficult. It's hard being stuck in hospital away from your other kids."

Sharon said that the last thing a family with a sick child needs, is to worry about money.

"You're trying to get your head around the diagnosis and don't have time or energy to fill our forms for a carer's allowance.

"We were in financial distress because of the trips to the hospital and basic things like parking and childcare."

Read More: In memory of Cliona

Sharon said she found out about the Cliona Foundation through the Jack and Jill foundation.

"I'll never forget the day a cheque for €1,500 came in the post from the Cliona Foundation. I didn't know it was coming and I burst into tears."

The mum-of-three explained how spending time with her sick child in hospital made her feel "so alone".

"I was so alone. Metabolic conditions are so rare that Lorna didn't fit under any umbrella. Opening that cheque made me feel as though someone was listening to me.

"The foundation doesn't jsut provide financial support, it's emotional support too. Hopefully some day we can do something in return for Terry and Brendan. They're amazing people. They've gone through it first-hand and they understand."

Mum-of-two Kellie Sweeney also praised the Cliona Foundation for their help after her baby Thomas passed away.

"My son Thomas was born very sick. He was baptised the day he was born and was sent from Limerick to Temple Street.

"Thomas had a rare syndrome that made his body insulin repellent. He was the first person in Ireland to be diagnosed with it. We knew something was wrong with him during my pregnancy but we didn't know how awful it would be."

Kellie said that the Cliona Foundation was invaluable to her family during the stressful time.

"You don't realise how much money you go through. Thomas unfortunately passed away but a couple of months later we received a cheque from the Cliona Foundation, which helped us immensely with our bills.

"We were able to pay off hospital and creche bills. They were amazing."

Kellie has since had another baby girl, Ciana,  and while there was a high risk that the baby would be born with the same syndrome, the 13-week-old is "flying".

Donations to the Cliona Foundation can be made online at www.clionasfoundation.ie or by calling the office with details at 061 331333.

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