Thursday 18 January 2018

'As a parent, I knew instinctively that something was very wrong' - Boy (7) battling rare cancer for the second time

Cathy Birmingham and her young son Max
Cathy Birmingham and her young son Max
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

The parent of a young boy who is battling cancer for the second time said that she'll never forget the haunting words of a doctor telling her that her baby had cancer.

Cathy Birmingham from Co Longford told Independent.ie that her young son Max (7) was diagnosed with cancer when he was two-years’-old.

“No parent ever forgets the time, date or place where they heard their child had cancer. It’s never something you think could happen to your family.

“I was in shock when the doctors told me it was neuroblastoma, but I was thankful that we had caught it early. Unfortunately, a lot of kids are sent home and are diagnosed with something else until a cancer diagnosis is actually made.”

After 18 months of treatment, little Max was given the all-clear.

At age 6, the family was given the devastating news that his cancer had returned.

“He began limping one day and I just knew that something was wrong. My instinct as a mum told me that his cancer was back.

“Doctors had said that if the cancer returned, Max would be straight into palliative care, but thankfully clinical trials seem to be working with him.”

For the past year, Max has been undergoing chemo, radiation and has been taken a drug to help keep the neuroblastoma away.

“The treatment was grand this time. Max only had a couple of hospital stays but we had to do a lot of travelling.

“We did his scans yesterday and we’re waiting to see if the cancer is now gone.”

Cathy, who has five other children, said the cancer diagnoses has taken its toll on the whole family.

“Max becomes the priority and we do everything we can to help him. It has a huge emotional, physical and financial strain on the whole family.”

She added that Max is a very active child and that adores wrestling.

“He got to meet some Irish wrestlers with the Make A Wish foundation.

“He wants to be a wrestler when he grows up and he found it difficult not being able to play rough and tough when he was sick.”

The Childhood Cancer Foundation (CCF) has launched a new campaign this month to raise vital funds to support the Foundation’s projects at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin and other shared care hospitals around Ireland.

An average of four children under the age of 16 are diagnosed with cancer here in Ireland every week.

Mum Cathy praised the CCF saying that it provides wonderful help to children with cancer.

“The hospital can be such a horrible place for young kids but the CCF have a play therapist there which the kids love. They have the ‘beads of courage’ where each kid is given thread and a bead is added to it for every treatment they complete. The kids really look forward to getting their beads.”

As part of the fundraising, Opel donated a car to the charity, designed by Irish artist Pan Cooke - along with children currently battling cancer.

Until midnight on October 15, supporters have a chance to win this limited edition Opel car when they make their donation of €4 to the cancer charity by simply texting “GOLDOPEL” to 50300.

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