A family watching a second son fight cancer has pleaded with everyone to be aware that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month.
Nicola Skehan and partner James Doran lost their beloved son Seán at the age of five to neuroblastoma in February 2016.
The brother he never got to meet, Mikey, is just eight months old and undergoing an intensive treatment programme for leukaemia.
When Mikey was born he was tested for neuroblastoma, what Seán had, this test was a simple urine test which came back clear which we were happy to hear,” Nicola said.
That was last December but in February, aged just 10 weeks old, he was diagnosed at their local hospital in Clonmel, Co Tipperary with ALL, a form of leukaemia.
“Mikey had started to reduce on his feeds and was sleeping a lot. We also noticed his belly was swollen.” They got him checked and, “once his bloods were tested we were told the devastating news within hours that our baby had cancer”.
We were in complete shock and disbelief. We were so angry as to why we again were the victims of childhood cancer especially after losing Seán.
The boys’ older brother, Dylan, 12, is going into secondary school.
Mikey is being treated on St John’s Ward in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin. The couple said the staff there are amazing.
“Mikey was very sick when we arrived in Crumlin, I don’t think we were fully aware at the time as to how critically ill he was.”
Nicola said he was at high risk of having a stroke and the staff “wasted no time in getting him into an intensive care unit”.
“Mikey fought hard to stay with us and after 10 days in ICU was well enough to return to St John’s ward.”
He has had four months of intense chemotherapy before receiving a bone marrow transplant from a donor.
After five weeks in isolation, “we are currently at home but Mikey will remain isolated for roughly 100 days post-transplant. We have to take every precaution to protect Mikey from any possible infections. It will be at least a year before we could say the transplant is a success but this is Mikey’s only chance possible of a cure,” Nicola said.
“At times it is still hard to believe this is happening.
James and I often feel like these last few years have been one big bad dream but we have to come to reality and be as strong as possible for Mikey and Dylan and to give it our best shot of beating this disease.
"We believe Mikey has his own guardian angel that is his big brother Seán who will watch over him and get him through this battle,” she said.
The couple decided to share their story to help spread awareness of childhood cancer.
“It is not uncommon as we know from our experiences. Please everyone ‘go gold’ in the month of September to help raise more awareness about childhood cancer,” Nicola added.