Rachel is three times a survivor
BRAVE Rachel Lett has beaten cancer three times -- but far from feeling sorry for herself, she believes she is one of the lucky ones.
"I had Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which is one of the better cancers to get," said Rachel, who had to undergo several rounds of gruelling medical treatment in her young life.
The 19-year-old, from Killenagh, Gorey, Co Wexford, is now fighting fit and in the middle of her studies for this June's Leaving Certificate.
She is among thousands of young survivors of the disease who will celebrate International Childhood Cancer Day today, marking one of the great medical success stories of modern times. A child with cancer stood only a 50pc chance of being cured in the 1950s, but today the survival rates are almost 85pc due to advances in treatment.
Rachel was 10 when she was first diagnosed at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin, and spent six months having treatment, including chemotherapy.
"I was in remission and back to normal, but two years later I was back in hospital after it returned," she recalled. The setback meant she had to undergo more chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The Kilkenny College student bounced back and had returned to her studies when she was struck a third time nearly four years ago. But this time doctors were able to give her a stem-cell transplant.
Doctors had harvested her own stem cells during her second bout of the disease and after intensive chemotherapy she had the transplant, spending about a month in an isolation ward.
Rachel is particularly grateful to Barretstown Castle in the foothills of the Wicklow mountains for seeing her through those tough times.
Children with life-threatening illness can escape to a fun camp away from the world of hospitals.
"It was brilliant -- there are loads of activities and we all share a common bond. My message to other children who might be afraid of going there is not to miss out."
Rachel hopes to study nutrition and dietetics at third level next year.
Dr Fin Breatnach, medical director at Barretstown, explained how the camp could transform the lives of children who had cancer by restoring confidence and completing the "therapeutic circle".
He said: "It provides children with an emotionally safe environment."