Saturday 23 September 2017

'I have no business, no car and no arm, but I still have my family' - Mum chose to have cancerous hand amputated

Kevin and Caroll Haslin with children Niamh and Daniel. Photo: Seamus Farrelly
Kevin and Caroll Haslin with children Niamh and Daniel. Photo: Seamus Farrelly

Louise Walsh

A mum who chose to have her cancerous hand amputated to boost her chances of seeing her children grow up was back at work less than a fortnight after the operation to say goodbye to her florist business.

Carol Haslam may have lost her limb, her business and even her car because of cancer, but she still has a strong sense of humour and revealed that her children have affectionately nicknamed her arm Forrest Stump.

She was diagnosed last April with sarcoma, a cancer so rare that people are more likely to win the Lotto than contract the disease.

Eyesight

"Who gets hand cancer? It's so extremely rare, I'm one of three people in a million to get it," said Carol (37), from Ratoath, Co Meath.

She was given the diagnosis only days before a planned trip with her son Daniel (9) to see the Grand Canyon before he loses his eyesight to optical atrophy, a genetic condition.

However, Carol went ahead with the trip so Daniel could tick off his bucket list of world sites before he went blind.

After Carol's chemotherapy failed, doctors proposed amputating three of her fingers, but she told them to take the whole left hand to ensure all traces of cancer were removed.

Doctors also amputated part of her forearm to increase her chances of getting fitted with a robotic limb in future.

As well as losing her hand, Carol had to give up her car and florist business as she is unable to drive or work with only one arm.

"I'm devastated I'm losing my Nissan Qashqai - I thought I was the business in it," she said.

"I have to get an automatic car that can be adapted and it's very hard to get a Qashqai like that.

"I've also had to sell my business in Blanchardstown village, which I've had for the last 11 years. Maybe when I get the hang of a prosthetic hand, I might be able to go back to floristry, but it really is a two-handed business."

Carol said she shed a few silent tears before the operation 12 days ago, but focused on the bigger, life-saving picture.

"I have a phantom limb. I can still feel that my hand is there and I've a little bit of pain. But it's a massive relief. My cancer, I hope, is gone for good," said Carol, who is married to Kev and is also mum to 11-year-old Niamh.

Grandchildren

"I'll be able to see my kids grow up, graduate and hopefully see my grandchildren.

"To opt for amputation was giving me the best chance of life. Sarcoma is aggressive and has a high chance of recurring.

"My arm looks like a stump now and, in time, I'll get fitted for a prosthetic arm and then hopefully a robotic one.

"When I got home, my arm looked like a point and my son told me I looked like Patrick out of Spongebob Squarepants.

"I laughed at that and now they're calling my arm Forrest Stump.

"I may have no business, no car and no arm, but I still have my family and my life, which I can now live without worrying about hand cancer."

Herald

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