Declan, 14, from Portarlington, Co Laois, no longer has leukaemia.
Catriona, seven, from Shankill, Co Dublin is recovering from the removal of a brain tumour for the third time. The two met again in Dublin’s Mansion House yesterday where they mingled with celebrities including rugby star Gordon D’Arcy, Rose of Tralee Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin and I Keano star and Today FM’s Gift Grub, Mario Rosenstock.
They were helping to launch the charity Barretstown’s first national Serious Fun Day, a fundraising initiative that takes place on February 15. Barretstown is hoping the event will help them achieve their e4.5 million target this year. The money helps to bring more than 1,500 children to the therapeutic camps in Co Kildare free of charge. Catriona’s mother, Patricia, said Barretstown let her see her see her daughter enjoy being a child. “Up to then I just saw the cancer first and then the child. We took away all the cotton wool and let her run around. It brought a sense of normality to our lives.”
Catriona’s brain tumour was diagnosed in February 2000 and recurred in 2002 and 2004. Each time she has undergone surgery to have it removed, followed by chemotherapy. She is still receiving chemotherapy. Her last surgery, in October 2004, was a very painful three-and-a-half hour procedure. Yet Catriona was soon sitting up in her bed, chatting and telling jokes. “She was out walking the next day even though her neurosurgeon did not think she would be. She’s very strong willed and just got on with her life,” said Patricia.
Declan said he will never forget the first time Gay Byrne presented Who Wants to be a Millionaire. It was October 17, 2000 - the day he was diagnosed with leukaemia and he missed seeing the show as a result. He finished his treatment in July the following year. Declan missed a year at school but now hopes to study medicine.
“I was playing basketball and the piano when I got sick. I missed the basketball but my mother’s friends bought me a keyboard and I was able bring that into hospital and entertain everybody in the same ward as me,” he recalled
He once wrote a story describing Barretstown.
“I wrote that every child has a candle in their heart and this strange illness put out the candle in me but Barretstown rekindled it.”
* Those wanting to get involved in the Serious Fun Day can contact Barretstown at (045) 864115 or visit www.barretstown.org.