Tom Brown was diagnosed with cancer when he was just four weeks old. His mum Karen, who lost her 15 year old brother Graeme to cancer 24 years ago, said she never expected her own family would be affected by the illness, and is thankful that charities like Cancer Fund for Children are here to support them. This is Karen’s story.
“Tom was delivered very quickly. Everything was fine for the first few hours but then he took poorly. Tom was not even 12 hours old when he was transferred to the neo-natal ward at the Royal Victoria Hospital where he stayed for 4 weeks. It was whilst we were there that we were told that he had neuroblastoma.
“At first we were advised to wait and see if the neuroblastoma would disappear by itself, which can sometimes happen with babies, but when that didn’t work, the juggernaut that is cancer treatment and chemo started.”
Cancer robbed us of a normal family life
“When Tom started treatment it was as if the cancer had robbed us of a normal family life. You can’t go out and show off the baby. You can’t do the things that other new mummies enjoy. It robs you of that special time. It was very isolating.
“As parents we juggled our time as we struggled to meet the needs of both our sons. My husband Barry was balancing work with staying at home to look after Tom’s older brother Robbie whilst I was in hospital with Tom.”
Cancer Fund for Children were amazing
“I lost my brother to cancer 24 years ago. Back then there was no support for families like mine. Since Tom has been sick I’ve been amazed by the services the charity provides. Our Cancer Fund for Children Specialist Laura was great. She took us through the financial grants we could apply for to help us with the cost of heating our home during Tom’s treatment, and the cost of travelling up and down to hospital.
“Laura also provided us with emotional support. It was such a relief just to know she was at the end of the phone and I could speak to her about anything that was worrying me. The individual work she did with Robbie gave him something else to focus on. She took him to Gosford Park and they had a picnic. Robbie would look forward to Laura coming. This was his time and he didn’t associate Laura with Tom being sick.
“We also enjoyed short breaks at Cancer Fund for Children’s self-catering cottages in Coleraine, and at Daisy Lodge in Newcastle. When we stayed at the Cottages it was our first family holiday. Tom was still having treatment at the time and we were worried about the risk of infection, but we had peace of mind knowing that Cancer Fund for Children’s short break centres are safe and clean. At Daisy Lodge, it was so nice to be there as a family. Everything is taken care of for you. It was just so lovely to have quality time with the boys in a supportive environment.”
Life after chemo
“Tom’s last chemo ended on 29th July 2016. The last couple of cycles were harder on him and he was quite sick, but he coped really well. Right now Tom has a little bit of neuroblastoma left so we have to go for regular check-ups but, touch wood he remains ok. We are just trying to get back to normal family life as there will always be that worry in the back of your mind that it could come back.
“Until you are in the situation yourself, you really don’t know how invaluable Cancer Fund for Children’s support is. We have been able to benefit from everything the charity provides and hope that others in the future who need it, can too.”
Q Radiothon is committed to supporting families like Karen’s by raising vital funds to support our fantastic charity partners. If you would like to help us make a difference, you can take part in our Big Brunch, hold your own event or make a donation.