'Trust your instincts, get it checked' - mum of two kids who battled cancer
Noreen Doyle has told parents to trust their instincts after two of her children were diagnosed with cancer and both times she had an unerring feeling that something was wrong.
"You know your own children best. If you feel something is wrong, get it checked out. It may be nothing, but it's better to get it checked out," she said.
It is unusual for two children in the same family to be diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). It's the most common childhood leukaemia, but it's not necessarily hereditary.
However, that is exactly what happened in the Doyle family from Naas, Co Kildare.
Ms Doyle and her husband John have four children: Adam (14), James (13), Alison (10) and Kate (8).
Ten years ago, James was diagnosed with the leukaemia. He was very sick at the beginning when he was first diagnosed, and getting him into remission took a long time. But the treatment he received at Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin, including chemotherapy, proved successful. Now a healthy 13-year-old, he's in first year in secondary school.
"He is a real outdoors child, rarely sick, and very healthy. He has a most gorgeous personality. He is very empathetic," Ms Doyle said.
The family thought the experience was behind them. However, last April, the youngest member of the family, Kate, was diagnosed two weeks before her first communion.
"Kate is a typical fourth child, completely independent, never sick, really a great eater, and everything good about her," said Ms Doyle.
So when Kate became quite lethargic with temperatures, her mum was concerned.
Her fears were confirmed when she went to Crumlin's emergency department. "I said: 'Please, just do the bloods [tests] on her, I have an instinct', and within two hours, they came back saying 'yeah, it's not looking good'."
She said that Professor Owen Smith, a consultant paediatric haematologist, took Kate on as his patient. She was diagnosed with the same cancer as her brother.
Kate is still in treatment, but back at school. "She is really starting to feel well again. Her energy has come back," said Ms Doyle. "We are working now with a hospital in the States, through Prof Smith, to look at the genetics of why it's happened twice in our family," she said.
She was speaking as the Children's Medical and Research Foundation (CMRF Crumlin) - the foundation supporting Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin and the National Children's Research Centre - highlighted the urgent need for funds.It launched its 'Toughest Journey' appeal over the festive period. CMRF Crumlin receives no Government funding so relies on the public.