Alison Bell’s son Ollie was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) when he was just six years old. Alison said the day she was told Ollie had cancer was the stuff of nightmares.
“On 18th October 2016, 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. As I made the journey I was becoming increasingly worried as he had been at the Doctors with a rash the week before.
“When the Doctors asked to speak to me alone, I knew it was serious. I can remember the words so clearly. ‘It’s not good news – your son has leukaemia’. I had to compose myself before they brought Ollie into the room with me. 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 and we managed to have a little party for him which we fitted in around his chemotherapy that day.
“The next stages of treatment were a mixture of inpatient and outpatient treatment which was really challenging. Although we had the freedom of not being in the hospital, the isolation was very hard on Ollie. His behaviour was affected by the intensity of having to stay in the house 24/7 to avoid the risk of infection. He missed school, his friends and just being able to be around people.”
Cancer Fund for Children were amazing
“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 would use ‘talking through play’ with Ollie to work through any worries he had and always knew at what point to suggest a therapeutic short break for us at Cancer Fund for Children’s short break centre, Daisy Lodge, if things were getting too much.
“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.”
Looking to the Future
“Ollie is doing really well and has now started a phase of less intensive treatment. He recently started back to school. It was a very emotional day – to see how far he has come. He still has two and half years of treatment left as well as daily chemo and we know that the cancer journey will most likely have long lasting effects even after he finishes treatment. Missing a year of school has left him behind academically and the chemotherapy drugs could likely have side-effects but, with Cancer Fund for Children’s help, we will address these issues and get through them together.”
“I honestly don’t know where I would be today with the support of Cancer Fund for Children.
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