Declan Molloy, shared his powerful and moving Barretstown story with our amazing donors recently, read his story here…
“Fourteen years ago I was a frightened little boy hearing the most devastating words any child can possibly hear… “you have cancer. You might die.” What followed, was basically the worst time of my life. I hated the hospital ward. I hated the chemo sessions. My hair fell out, and I felt sick and tired all the time. I even hated not being in school! It’s true what they say… cancer steals your childhood. But it’s equally true, that Barretstown brings it all back.
Even after the chemotherapy had finished, I was still a wreck. I was so nervous of the world. So nervous of people. I was glued to my mam’s hip all the time, because I was still traumatised.
That’s the kind of mind-set I was in when my mam first heard about Barretstown. But do you know what… I wasn’t even interested. At the time it felt like just one more thing to be afraid of. But fortunately, after a lot of humming and hawing, we bit the bullet, and like my mam always says… I came back from camp a different child.
I remember crying on the drive to Barretstown. And my mam was crying as well. And if either of us had said the right thing, she probably would have turned the car around and driven us home. But somehow she got me there. It’s so hard to put into words all the wonderful things my Barretstown experience has done for me. But simply put, it’s changed my life. Or to be more accurate, amazing people like you, people who support Barretstown and make its magic possible… you made me the man I am today.
I remember the incredible welcome I got from the Caras. I can still see those big smiles. I remember Eimear, my nurse. An incredible woman who I looked up to so much. I wanted to be just like her, helping children in the amazing calm, confident way she did. She’s been a huge inspiration in my life. In fact, she’s the reason I’m a nurse today. And the reason I’ve been back to Barretstown as a volunteer Cara, and as a volunteer nurse.
And whenever I’m there, it always comes flooding back to me whenever I see a kid jumping out of their boots to tell their mam and dad all the things they’ve done on camp. And their parents’ faces lighting up in amazement at this child who’s so different to the one they dropped off.
Another really emotional memory I hold dear from Barretstown was the way my illness was never an issue. The only time the Caras raised it was to tell us it wasn’t important, that your illness doesn’t define you as a person. I remember one Cara simply saying:
“It doesn’t matter what disease you have or what you’ve been through. Everyone here’s been through the same thing. You’re here for camp, and you’re going to have the best craic ever. That’s it.”
I remember doing all the activities, and the amazing feeling of confidence that grew inside me as they helped me to achieve things I couldn’t believe I could possibly do in a million years.
Like the high ropes . . . that was my big challenge. Then later, when we’re all sitting around in a circle in the evening sharing all the good things we’ve achieved during the day, your Cara will say something like . . .
“Just look at what you’ve learned at camp today. Look what you’ve achieved, even though you thought you couldn’t. You can take that out into the world with you and you can achieve anything. No way an illness is going to stop you from achieving your goals.”
You go back out into the world feeling yourself again. Feeling better than yourself. Knowing that you can achieve anything you really want to achieve in life. And that feeling stays. I’m living proof. I’m a nurse now, working on an oncology ward – which is exactly what I wanted to be more than anything else in the world.
There’s another child out there right now who needs the magic of Barretstown. Just as I did back in 2000, even though I didn’t realise it at the time. So please help bring another child with cancer to camp.
Barretstown is life changing. Barretstown is incredible. Barretstown is magical.
But only because you make it life changing, incredible, and magical through your generosity and kindness. You do that.”