Tuesday 25 October 2016

'I wish there was no such thing as cancer' - Irish school girl (8) praised for honest article on three-year battle

Greg Harkin

Published 21/05/2015 | 14:52

A smile from Erin Gallagher pictured in her class at Glenswilly National School (Cristeph/Brian McDaid)
A smile from Erin Gallagher pictured in her class at Glenswilly National School (Cristeph/Brian McDaid)
Erin Gallagher when she was ill in hospital.
Erin Gallagher and her mother Colette look back on the journey that Erin has travelled to recovery (Picture Cristeph/Brian Mc Daid)
Erin Gallagher and her mother Colette look back on the journey that Erin has travelled to recovery (Picture Cristeph/Brian Mc Daid)

A young Irish school girl has been praised after writing an article on her three-year battle with cancer.

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Erin Gallagher, aged 8, says she wanted to share what she went with other children to help them face their battles.

She spent more than a year of her life at Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin.

Her mother Colette, a legal executive, says their world was turned upside down when Erin was diagnosed with leukaemia.

Erin Gallagher when she was ill in hospital.
Erin Gallagher when she was ill in hospital.

"By writing about what happened to her it has given us all a new perspective of what she went through," said Colette.

"We saw other children recover and others who didn't make it so it was a very traumatic time.

"We hope that Erin's personal story will help to inspire others facing the same battle. It's only when this happens to your own family that you realise how fantastic those doctors and nurses in Crumlin really are.

"We were so far from home for up to six months at a time and we had so much support too from people in Dublin, some of whom would go away with our clothing and return it washed and ironed. The generosity of people was incredible."

Erin, who is from Co Donegal, has two older brothers, Cathal (13) and Conor (11) and a younger brother Cian who is seven.

She loves speaking Irish and plays gaelic football with her club Glenswilly where local favourites Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher are her heroes.

Erin Gallagher when she was ill in hospital.
Erin Gallagher when she was ill in hospital.


This is Erin's story

By Erin Gallagher, aged 8.

The week after my third birthday I took a sore leg.  My Mum and Dad noticed that I had a limp. 

My Mum thought it might go away and that I had just went over on my ankle in new sandals which she had bought me. On Friday my Mum took me to a man who is a physio and he had a look at my leg but could not see anything wrong with me. On Sunday morning we went to mass. After mass we went home and I fell in the house and told my Mum that my leg was too sore to get up and walk.

Mum and Dad brought me to A&E where the doctor did x-rays on my leg. The doctor told my Mum to stay that night in the hospital with me until the other doctor saw me. I stayed in the hospital that night and slept all night.   

When I awoke in the morning I got my breakfast. My leg was still sore. A nurse came to the ward and asked my Mum to take me to another room. She asked my Mum to ring my Dad because he was away to work. When my Dad came in the doctor told my Mum and Dad that I was going to Dublin hospital. I did not know what was wrong with me but I knew it was something bad because my Mum was crying. My Mum went home to get clothes and pyjamas for me and I stayed with my Dad. We went to Dublin in the ambulance and the ambulance driver put on the blue lights and sirens for me.    

I arrived in Crumlin hospital and I saw lots of children with no hair. I said to my Mum that they were all babies here because no one had hair. My Mum explained to me that with the medicine I would have to get to make me better might make my hair fall out. I didn’t really mind. My Mum told me I had cancer. I didn’t really know how bad this sickness was because I was too wee but sometimes after the medicine I would feel really sick.

The next day I was taken to theatre and had a Freddie line put into my neck and chest. It had two different colours on it. They were red and green. My Mum had to learn from the nurses how to clean the line and how to change the bandages on my line and to take my bloods. I stayed there for nine days and got all sorts of different medicines to help me.   

We came home after nine days. Two days after I got home my Mum noticed a black spot on my arm. 

She took me to Letterkenny Hospital and they tried to make it better but it just got bigger and I got really sick.  

They sent me in the ambulance again to Dublin just me and my Mum went this time because my Dad had to stay and work and help look after my brothers. I got to Dublin and saw lots of different doctors who were trying to see what kind of infection it was. They gave me different antibiotics and six days later they took me to theatre and took away the black part off my arm and took skin off my leg to cover my arm, this is called a skin graft. When I woke from theatre my arm and leg were really sore.  During this time I had to keep getting horrible medicine called chemotherapy. My leg would not heal and the doctors explained to my Mum that it was because I was getting chemotherapy.

I had to stay in hospital in Dublin with my Mum for 22 weeks until my leg and arm got a bit better. The nurses taught my Mum how to dress my arm and leg and I liked my Mum doing it better than the nurses. My Dad and my three brothers visited me some weekends. I had no hair at all and the nurses were calling me Sinead O Connor. I did not know who this was so my Mum showed me a picture of her on her phone.    

I got home again after that and often had to go to Letterkenny Hospital to stay for a week or so if I had an infection. Mum always stayed with me and I would stay with the nurses or Mum’s friend if Mum had to go home for clothes or a shower.     

I had to go to Dublin on Christmas eve to get medicine and I was really sick. I slept all the way home and was very sick during the night.  Santa came but I didn’t feel like opening my presents.  I had to go back to Crumlin hospital by ambulance on Boxing Day and I was there for a long time. My Mum told me I was there for 19 weeks.

I had to go to theatre once a month to get a lumbar puncture done. This was when they put a big needle into my spine and put medicine in there as well. I used to go to the playroom if I felt like it. There was lots of lovely toys there. I used to play a lot with play dough.

I got home then after that and had to go to Letterkenny Hospital sometimes if I had a temperature. I had started school and my teacher Mrs. Mc Cafferty was the best teacher to me she was so kind to me if I felt bad. I also had an SNA called Clare who was really good to me. I could not walk and had to learn to walk again. 

My Mum had to take me into school and carry me through the house. Then I got a wee walking aid to help me in the house. I managed through baby infants without missing too many days and only got chemotherapy at home on a Tuesday. I didn’t like the tablets and had to stand at the front door to take them so I could get fresh air and I wouldn’t be sick. Mum explained to me that I had to take it to make me better.

I then moved on to senior infants. I finished my medicine and since then I have been really well. My legs got strong again and now I am just the same as everyone else. I only go to Dublin once a year to see the doctors and get a check up.  

I wish there was no such thing as cancer but just feel glad that I beat it. 

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