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Saturday 1 October 2016

Fears for funding of Dublin girl whose cancer treatment in US has cost €200k

Ryan Nugent and Katie Morris

Published 04/08/2015 | 08:17

Ten year old Robyn Smyth at Dublin Airport
Ten year old Robyn Smyth at Dublin Airport

Treatment in America for a young Dublin girl battling a rare form of cancer is costing almost €200,000, with her family now worried that donations may start to dry up.

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Robyn Smyth (10) is battling Stage 4 neuroblastoma and is undergoing six treatments at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Michigan, at a cost of around €30,000 each time.

Ten year old Robyn Smyth with her mum Bernadette Dornan
Ten year old Robyn Smyth with her mum Bernadette Dornan

Having only returned home to Dublin less than two weeks ago, Robyn and her mother Bernadette have to set off to the US again today, with Robyn requiring treatment every 21 days.

Robyn, who was first diagnosed with cancer in 2007, aged three, was in remission for four years until she relapsed shortly before her First Communion.

Immune

"She was fine while we were over in Michigan and doing well under the original chemotherapy treatment, but we had to change the treatment before she became immune to it and the new course put her in a lot of pain," said Bernadette.

Ten year old Robyn Smyth with her sister Millie (3) at Dublin Airport
Ten year old Robyn Smyth with her sister Millie (3) at Dublin Airport

"She was in agonising pain for the first two days that we were back in Dublin, literally constantly screaming with stomach cramps and pains."

Bernadette is hoping Robyn can come through the treatment positively, but says either way she'll "never give up".

The family have received amazing support from people donating, but with expensive trips to America looking set to continue, Bernadette is hoping they can revive some more interest.

"I hope so. Our 'idonate' page received more than €30,000 in May, but it was only €190 in July, so hopefully we can get people more interested. There have been people donating through different ways," she added.

Both Bernadette and Robyn's father Leighton have had to give up their jobs in order to support their daughter.

"I'm just a full-time carer for Robyn now. Since we've started to go to America, Leighton has had to leave his job to take care of our other daughter Millie (3)," said Bernadette.

Meanwhile, a lifelong Manchester United fan, who has never met the family, has vowed to get a Liverpool tattoo if he can raise €20,000 for Robyn.

Michael O'Brien (34), from Fethard in Co Tipperary, said he is willing to get the tattoo just about anywhere except his forehead.

Michael's own daughter Bianca (7) had previously been diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia, but is now thankfully in remission.

Michael told the Herald that he has never met Robyn, but felt compelled to help due to the aggressiveness of neuroblastoma and the expenses that come with it.

"She's been through a very rough time from what I've seen and she's going through a rotten time now as she's had cancer for a long time," said Michael.

"Neuroblastoma is a very, very aggressive form of cancer. It's something that is not very well supported over here," he added.

Courage

Michael's daughter Bianca, who won a National Children of Courage Award last year, regularly travels to Crumlin Children's Hospital for treatment.

"With Bianca we had a lot of costs ourselves but that was more like €50k. It's not very nice to have to come up with €50k, but it's a lot more feasible than €500k," Michael explained.

Michael said he imagines he will "get a lot of grief" about his tattoo, but doesn't mind.

"It's only one scar on me, look at it that way. Look at all of those kids that have lots of scars from all of the operations that they go through - this is nothing and I'm not worried."

Michael has planned to get the tattoo on October 24 following Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September.

Visit idonate.ie/1011_robyn--s-life.html to donate

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