Unfortunately every week in Ireland three families learn the devastating news that their child has cancer. No parent ever thinks that their child will get cancer. And no parent thinks they will ever have to face the possibility that their child could die.
When a child is diagnosed with cancer, everything becomes about what you can’t do anymore, or where you can’t go. When your child’s life is at stake the reality is that you have no choice.
Meet the Godden family, from Wexford, who share their Barretstown story.
When seven-year-old Caitlin was diagnosed with cancer, life for the whole family went from “yes we can” to “no we can’t”. It was around this time, two years ago, when Caitlin and her family were enjoying their last few weekends of the summer, and gearing up for the beginning of another school year, that’s they learnt the awful news.
Caitlin’s mum, Nicki, explains… “my lasting memory of that month is some pictures I have of Caitlin on the beach one day. Just one of those carefree summer days that you think your children are going to have throughout their life. And then the following month it sort of hit us like a sledgehammer.”
August came round and Caitlin started feeling ill. She woke up every morning with a temperature. Small bruises started to show on Caitlin’s skin. Her parents were concerned that she had picked up something viral, so they took her to Wexford hospital, where doctors ran blood tests.
Nothing could have prepared Nicki and her husband for what the doctor told them… “We sat down and that’s when the doctor said to me, ‘there’s no easy way to say this, but I’m afraid Caitlin has leukaemia’. I couldn’t even look at Ken. I went numb.
I can just remember lying with Caitlin in her hospital room that night, just hoping they’d got it wrong, thinking they were going to come back the next morning and say ‘look I’m really sorry, we’ve made a huge mistake’.”
But there was no mistake. Seven-year-old Caitlin was sent to Crumlin to begin treatment. She and her family had a two-year fight to save her life ahead of them.
The first six months of Caitlin’s treatment were the hardest for Caitlin, and the whole family. In many ways, life had stopped for all of them. Caitlin’s treatment made her vulnerable to infection. She had to be kept away from other children, and couldn’t go to school. Her big brother Patrick and her little sister Erin also became isolated. They were no longer able to go on sleepovers at their friends’ houses, or even to birthday parties, in case they brought back infections.
Family days out didn’t happen. And holidays were put on hold, at least until Caitlin finished her treatment. Every day colds and bugs that children easily pick up, can result in a trip to the hospital for a child during cancer treatment. Their carefree day at the beach the previous summer had become a distant memory for all of them.
Nicki remembers, “one day I’d gone into Caitlin and she just handed me a handful of hair. I had to leave the room because I got really upset. We knew it was going to happen. You think you’re prepared for it, but you’re not.”
Nicki and her husband heard about Barretstown while they were in Crumlin, so when they felt Caitlin was strong enough, the entire family attended a Family Weekend Camp. It helped changed their lives.
Our Family Weekend Camps are about taking care of the child, and the whole family. Children and parents embark on our Therapeutic Recreation programme which challenges them, and brings them back together as a family. That’s what our camp is all about – building up children and families after a serious childhood illness like cancer has knocked them down.
At our camps, families don’t have to worry about the next hospital appointment. They don’t have to worry about the next round of medication. Or about their children’s safety. We take all the worry away for families. Barretstown supporters show children with serious illness, and their families, that they can do anything. They can run and jump and play. They can have fun together. And they can start to feel like a regular family again.
We want to bring more families to Barretstown, but we have a long waiting list for our family camps. Will you help bring a family to a Family Weekend Camp?
If people didn’t support Barretstown, this place wouldn’t exist. Barretstown gives families like mine a light at the end of the tunnel.” Nicki Godden
There’s another family in hospital right now, being given the news that no parent ever wants to hear… ‘your child has cancer’. They’ll have a long and tough road ahead of them. Their lives will go from ‘yes we can’ to ‘no we can’t’, but with your help, Barretstown can support these families.
Please help us to support these families by bring them to Barretstown to experience the magic of camp.