Six year-old Harry Kieran McGeary was given a hero’s welcome at Knockbride National School in celebration of his finishing gruelling cancer treatment.
Pupils formed a guard of honour on Wednesday February 1 as Harry walked into school for the first time since finishing treatment.
The previous day he had rung the bell at Crumlin Children’s Hospital to celebrate being illness free after three and a half years of treatment.
“It was just amazing – Harry felt like a celebrity,” says Emma, from Kilcroney, paying tribute to the school and local community for all the support they have given the family over the past few years.
Harry was just three when he was diagnosed with leukemia in September 2019.
“He had turned three in May and was diagnosed on September 26,” says Emma, the date forever etched on her mind.
She had noticed him appearing tired for a few days beforehand and with a mother’s instinct, knew something was wrong. “He was pale, he was asking me to lift him and said he was tired. He had night sweats, his pillow was saturated.”
As she took him for a walk one evening, she thought that he was walking like “an old man”.
“I said it to my Mammy who lives right beside me and she agreed. I took him to the GP and he was sent to hospital. I just knew it was leukaemia it was a mother’s instinct.”
The family faced their worst nightmare as Harry was diagnosed with leukaemia and began chemotherapy within days.
“The first year was horrendous. He had to have really intense chemo as he was characterised as high risk, and was very, very sick for the first few months. He was only three years of age and it was tough.”
Emma has nothing but praise for the staff at Crumlin Children’s Hospital and also the children’s cancer ward at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.
“They do everything they can to keep children at home but there were times when Harry got infections and had to spend time in hospital.”
Harry responded so well to chemotherapy that he didn’t need a bone marrow transplant, and in June 2021, moved onto maintenance therapy.
This involved taking oral chemo once a month and having chemotherapy to the spine once every three months.
While it was a very tough time, Emma says Harry smiled through it all.
“It’s behind us now and he’s come through a million times stronger. He was known as ‘Happy Harry’ and is everyone’s little hero.”
Emma says that the one good thing about Harry being so young was that he didn’t know what he was facing and once he was told he was going to be okay, he believed it.
“It was very hard,” she says, looking back on the past three years but it also had its special moments.
During of the times when Harry was in Crumlin, the family met RTE celebrity Ryan Tubridy.
“Crumlin was something else. The staff were just amazing and they have the Clown Doctors and play nurses for the children,” she says.
Harry also attended the children’s cancer ward in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, where senior paediatric oncology nurse Connie Crehan was like “a second Mum to him.”
On the day that Harry rang the bell signifying the end of his treatment in Crumlin, the family called into Conor McGregor’s Black Forge Inn for a meal.
When the staff learned that Harry had finished treatment, they took his photo with the champion’s belt, which McGregor shared on his Instagram account.
Emma and Christopher are extremely grateful to all the support they received from their family, friends and all in the local community.
“I work with State Street in Drogheda and they are so supportive,” she says.
Her parents Brendan and Breda live next door and her sisters Susan and Sarah and brother John were also on hand to lend support. Emma’s daughter Ella and Chris’ son Christopher were also a huge support for their wee brother when he was going through treatment.
While Harry will still have to attend hospital for three month check-up for the next year, the family are hoping that their little hero has put all his battles behind him.