When Lucy’s mum Caroline heard the diagnosis she felt like she’d been “hit by a train”
A nine-year-old girl who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year has asked Santa for a better 2022.
Lucy Roberts from Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh found out she had acute lymphoblastic lymphoma in February after she had problems swallowing.
This was a complete shock to her family, who said up to this stage she had been a healthy child.
Her mum Caroline said when she heard the news and was going to have to tell her husband Alan, she felt like she’d been “hit by a train”.
After a tough year, Lucy said: “I’m really looking forward to our Christmas dinner and spending time with my family. What I want most from Santa is for a better 2022.”
Her mum added: “Lucy has always been a very healthy child, but back in February she was having problems swallowing her meals. She said the lumps wouldn’t go down.
“We arranged a GP appointment, and he noticed a small swelling to Lucy’s neck. He asked a few questions on how Lucy had been over the past few months, and we agreed that Lucy was more tired than usual and had lost weight. We left the appointment thinking it was likely that Lucy had an overactive thyroid.
“An ultrasound scan of her thyroid and a chest x-ray was then booked in the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen. The X-ray results were a complete shock. There was a mass covering Lucy’s chest, which had progressed to her neck area and was starting to constrict.
“As I heard the results, the words used were terrifying – mass, oncologist, treatment, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. I remember thinking this is not good. I’d such a feeling of disbelief. Lucy was always a healthy girl. How could this be? How was I to phone my husband Alan and tell him this news? It really felt like I’d been hit by a train.”
An ambulance crew then took Lucy and Caroline to the Haematology Unit at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.
The Co Fermanagh mum added: “I remember Lucy saying ‘Mummy, this is where they ring the bell.’ She had seen it on children’s TV programme ‘Operation Ouch!’
“As I stood in the isolation room, Lucy explored the room saying, ‘This is nice Mummy.’ I thought, ‘Don’t get too comfortable wee woman; we’ll be out of here in the morning.’ Little did I know that room would be our home for the next two weeks.”
Lucy’s cancer treatment started that night with steroids to clear the mass on her chest so she could have a central line inserted.
The first eight months of her treatment were the intensive phase which involved chemotherapy, steroids, outpatient visits, theatre trips and hospital admissions due to the side effects of treatment.
Caroline added: “Our world as we knew it was changing very quickly. The days that followed were a blur of scans, tests, meeting the team, needles and more needles. The trauma that came with the needles and the blood tests will stay with us. Seeing the first chemo and cytotoxic medication being infused was hard to watch.
“How could our wee girl need such harsh medication? Lucy looked well, but we knew the medication would physically change her. As the days passed, we could see life and energy disappear from her sparkling brown eyes. Lucy would always have a book in hand – but that disappeared too.
“We weren’t able to mix with friends or family because of Lucy’s low immune system and risk of infection. At times it felt like a lot of the fun in our lives as a family was lost. This was replaced by anxiety and emotional rollercoasters. Lucy was really upset when we told her she couldn’t go to school anymore, and Covid restrictions meant she couldn’t meet other children like her on a cancer journey, which left her feeling very isolated.”
Cancer Fund for Children then stepped in to help Lucy and her family.
Speaking about the support her family received Caroline said: “We felt great relief when Gareth, a Cancer Support Specialist from Cancer Fund for Children, contacted us. He explained how they support families like ours. We weren’t alone.
“With covid restrictions still in place, Gareth started one-to-one sessions with Lucy on Zoom. It was great that she had somebody other than her dad and I to talk with. Lucy had become quiet and withdrawn within a short space of time, so having someone that understood was invaluable. Lucy looked forward to these Zoom sessions and found them helpful. I can’t tell you know good it was to hear her giggling and having fun again.
“When Covid restrictions allowed, Gareth was able to call to our home and spend time with Lucy. He equipped her with strategies to help manage her feelings and reassured her that these feelings were normal.
“Through his work with other children living with cancer Gareth helped Lucy understand that she was not alone. He told her about the residentials the charity provides at Narnia, their log cabin, and how she could spend time with other children of her own age when restrictions lifted.”
Cancer Fund for Children also offer families the opportunity to experience therapeutic short breaks at their centre, Daisy Lodge in Newcastle, Co Down.
The mum-of-two added: “Gareth arranged for us to stay at Daisy Lodge in the summer. Lucy and her younger brother, Aaron, were very excited about visiting Daisy Lodge and having fun. Unfortunately, we had to cancel as Lucy was admitted to hospital.
“Families wait so long to visit Daisy Lodge, and the date is easily lost if like us the little one becomes unwell, and then can’t go. We have been given a new date for our short break and are on the countdown to December! It will give us time away from our new normal.”
Lucy is now entering the maintenance phase of her treatment and her parents are taking each day as it comes.
“This Christmas we’re looking forward to Lucy being as healthy as she can be and enjoying some family time together. I can’t imagine how we would have coped without Cancer Fund for Children’s support and would ask people to please make any donation they can, so they can help even more children like Lucy now and in the future,” Caroline added.
To donate to the charity’s Santa Cause appeal, visit cancerfundforchildren.com.
- Posted by Oak Tree Therapies
- On December 14, 2021