Cancer doesn't know it's Christmas
If you’re lucky, you have a child like Patrick in your life. A live wire. Someone whose smile lights up the house, and whose laughter fills every room with warmth. Our house was always loud with Patrick in it. But four years ago, just before Christmas, Patrick got really sick. Our house went quiet. And it stayed that way for a very long time. Because that Christmas our family was given the news that no family ever wants to hear. News that tears families apart. Once a healthy and vibrant little boy, Patrick was diagnosed with leukaemia. What followed was three and a half incredibly tough and painful years.
It was the first Christmas Patrick was excited about Santa. But he was so sick, he didn't even remember it. He wasn't even aware of his presents.
Life started to unravel for our family just before Christmas.Patrick was only two years old. He got a terrible fever – his temperature shot up to 104 degrees.
On Christmas Day we had to bring him to the doctor. Christmas was cancelled. The doctors told us Patrick had leukaemia. He’d need to start chemo right away. Patrick had three and a half years of treatment ahead of him. His first month was horrendous. But on day 31, Patrick suffered another almost fatal blow. He had a brain seizure caused by a fungal infection. He spent 10 days in ICU and 3 full months in hospital
He’d say, ‘I just want to die.’ And ‘I don’t feel the same mum. I don’t like feeling like this.’ It would break my heart seeing what the drugs were doing to him. He was just a baby. My baby. This was so wrong.
Cancer took my son, and my whole family, into the darkest place of our lives. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel waiting for us. And that light was Barretstown. It was in the hospital that I found out about Barretstown. The Hospital Outreach team would come in and play with the children. Patrick loved being around them. And so did Michael - it made him so happy to be spending time with his brother again. It was one of the volunteers who said to me ‘you have to go to Barretstown’!
When we entered the huge gates at Barretstown it was as if a large weight was lifting off all our shoulders. We didn’t have to think about doctors, medicine, meals. It was just about my husband and me, and our three boys spending time together as a family. Today the boys still play some of the games the Caras played with them. Their favourite was getting on a bench in a line and pretending they were on a rollercoaster. I think the whole lot of us just knitted together from that uninterrupted time.Make A Difference Donate Now
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Our arts and crafts team are always on hand with paint, facepaint, crayons, craft paper, bracelet beads, feathers and everything you can imagine, to bring out the creative side in each child!
All of our camps and programmes are designed to respond directly to the needs of a child living with a serious illness – both clinical and psychological. Our unique model of challenge, discovery, reflection and success is recognised by paediatricians and psychologists all over the world as an important and necessary component of a child’s treatment.
The loss of control that many children and their families experience as a result of a serious illness can gradually erode confidence, diminish self-esteem, body image and coping skills. We aim to give this back by empowering and encouraging each individual to step out of their comfort zone and begin to re-build their confidence, trust and self-esteem and discover something new about themselves and their ability.
We believe that fun should be an integral part of what we do. Fun and laughter are key ingredients in improving the lives of those affected by serious illness.
Our outreach programme brings the playful spirit of Barretstown beyond the gates of our beautiful castle into hospitals and communities all over the country.