Tuesday 12 December 2017

'I thought I might never see her again' - mum of brave Robyn battling cancer in the US

Robyn Smith
Robyn Smith

Chai Brady

The mother of a girl suffering from cancer was left "terrified" her daughter would die after a blood vessel was nicked during a procedure.

Robyn Smyth (12) relapsed last week while she was receiving treatment in the US. During a procedure to insert a tube that administers chemotherapy, a mistake was made that caused blood to flow into her chest.

Her mother, Bernadette Dornan from Whitehall, north Dublin, said "the next hour was just panic" as she waited to hear what happened.

"When we found the cancer was back, we knew we had to have the Hickman line. This line has to go into a vessel to administer the chemotherapy," she said.

Bernadette Dornan, from Whitehall in north Dublin, with her daughters Robyn Smyth (12) and Millie Smyth (5) in 2015
Bernadette Dornan, from Whitehall in north Dublin, with her daughters Robyn Smyth (12) and Millie Smyth (5) in 2015

"It happens very rarely but it tore through a blood vessel. We thought that she wasn't going to make it because she was bleeding so quickly."

"I was terrified. I thought I might not see her again. It was the scariest thing we have ever been through. I just wanted to see her and it felt like hours."

Luckily Robyn went through a successful operation and her chest was drained of blood.

A biopsy was taken last week after the cancer returned for the third time, and the hospital in Michigan is currently determining which drug would best help her.

Bernadette said she was "heartbroken" for her daughter as she just wants to be normal.

Robyn was first diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called neuroblastoma when she was three years old, and was given a 20 to 30pc chance of survival.

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

After aggressive treatments, she was cancer-free for four years, until it was discovered again when she was eight.

Her mother discovered a lump on her face and a scan showed it was a tumour that had protruded through her jaw bone.

Scans showed that it had spread to her spine, legs and eye socket.

At this point there was no treatment in Ireland that could help her. Bernadette was told that Robyn had just a 5pc chance of survival.

The family's best hope was to travel to the US so that she could undergo progressive treatments.

This dream became a reality thanks to the generous support of thousands of Irish people, as Robyn and her mother were able to travel to Michigan to the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.

"Robyn's doctor is amazing here. She's always optimistic and we feel like she truly cares about Robyn. I know she will do whatever she can to help Robyn," Bernadette said.

Since May 2015, the family has been back and forth for Robyn's treatments. At first they had to return every three weeks, but after a while it was up to eight to 12 weeks, but this will change now the cancer has returned.

The family has been "overwhelmed" with the amount of support from the community and people in Ireland.

Anyone who would like to donate should go to idonate.ie/ 1011_robyn--s-life.html. Also see "Robyns Life" on Facebook.

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