A mum whose six-year-old son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia is encouraging others to support the charity that was there for them when their world was turned upside down.
Alison Bell, from Newtownabbey, is sharing son Ollie’s story as part of Cancer Fund for Children’s Christmas appeal, to encourage local people to do whatever they can to support children whose lives have been devastated by cancer.
Alison said the day back in 2016 she was told Ollie had cancer was the stuff of nightmares: “I went to wake my five-year-old son Ollie to get ready for school, just like any other day, but Ollie complained that he couldn’t put his foot on the floor to get up. He was obviously in a lot of pain and crying so I took him to Antrim Hospital to get an X-ray.”
Little did Alison know that within a few hours her world would be turned upside down.
She said: “From there we were transferred to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children where we stayed for the next five weeks for intensive treatments. It’s the stuff of nightmares but throughout his treatment Ollie just got on with it and fought. He celebrated his sixth birthday on the ward”.
It was whilst Ollie was in hospital that he was referred to Cancer Fund for Children for support. The charity’s team of Community Specialists provide individual support to children with cancer and their families at home, in hospital or in their community.
Alison said: “Our Cancer Fund for Children Specialist Gemma was absolutely amazing and a godsend to both Ollie and to me. Gemma built up such a caring relationship with both of us to help us through what has been a very difficult time. Through the dark days of intensive treatment when we were restricted to the house, her visits would be the highlight of our day. She also helped arrange for us to receive the charity’s financial grants.
“Ollie was discharged from hospital in November so it was a massive worry to me how I was going to be able to afford to heat the house for him as it was so cold in the middle of winter and we were at home 24 hours a day. But Cancer Fund for Children were there to support us with their Home Heating Grant. It was such a relief to have this additional worry taken away so that I could get on with caring for Ollie without this added financial stress.
“Likewise their Road Miles Grant also helped in a big way with the travelling expenses to and from hospital – all of these additional expenses really add up and until you’re faced with the realities yourself you just don’t think about the financial cost of a cancer diagnosis. The practical support offered by Cancer Fund for Children is amazing.”
After a year of treatment Ollie is doing really well and has now started a phase of less intensive treatment. He recently started back to school. Alison, who is preparing to trek the Grand Canyon in 2018 to give back to the charity that was there for her and her son, added: “I honestly don’t know where I would be today with the support of Cancer Fund for Children.
Cancer Fund for Children Community Specialist Neil Symington said: “By supporting Cancer Fund for Children this Christmas, you truly are making a difference, enabling us to be there for children with cancer, and their families, when they need us most.”
To find out more visit cancerfundforchildren.com.