Esme O’Connor lives in Dublin with her parents Tomas and Emmeline, and her older sister Maud who is 10. Just before her second birthday Esme, who is seven and a half years old, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Esme’s mum Emmeline is sharing their experience of childhood cancer and the benefits of a therapeutic short break at Daisy Lodge.
“Esme is a force of nature. She loves singing and dancing. She has amazing self-belief and confidence. If Esme gets knocked down, she just gets back up again and is really brave. It is like God gave her an extraordinary personality and resilience because he knew what she was going to have to endure.”
“Esme started to get sick in 2016 just before her second birthday. She went through two and a half years of treatment and was well again for around a year. Then she relapsed, which was a really bleak time. ALL is the most common childhood cancer and most successful to treat, but not when you relapse. Esme had to have a bone marrow transplant and spent eight and a half weeks in hospital where she was confined to one room and wasn’t allowed to see anyone other than her Dad and me. For over a year she wasn’t allowed to go to school or see other children, other than her sister, in case she caught an infection due to her weakened immune system”
“We were devastated both times Esme was diagnosed with cancer, but on a positive note we received extraordinary support from our family, our
friends and from the medical team at Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) at Crumlin, and that made us stronger. The team at Crumlin including the doctors, nurses, and the household staff were unbelievable. You really feel like you are enveloped in a big hug there. Esme never had any negative feelings about going into hospital and that is testament to the team there. “
“We didn’t know what to expect when we first went to Cancer Fund for Children’s Daisy Lodge. We arrived at the most beautifully appointed chalet and received the warmest welcome from our Cancer Support Specialist, Cat. The next morning when we opened the curtains in our room, we just couldn’t believe the view outside of the Mourne Mountains. It was spectacular.
“The team in the dining room were so sweet. They couldn’t have been more accommodating of Esme dietary habits which have been affected by her cancer treatment. The chef went out of his way to make her special, bespoke meals.“
“We took part in therapeutic art classes and we made a piece of artwork which I now have in our kitchen. The girls had so much fun playing
foosball and playing pool with their granny. It was lovely to be able to invite Esme and Maud’s granny, particular as both my mum and Tomas’s mum were like the third and fourth parents to our daughters during Esme’s treatment – spending a substantial amount of time in hospital with Esme. At Daisy Lodge my mum had an adjoining room next door to us. The girls had bunkbed which was a novelty sleeping arrangement that they loved.
One of our favourite experiences was taking part in a mindfulness session along with other families. Cat got us to think about our emotions and the girls were so engaged. This really surprised me given how young Esme and Maud are.”
“We availed of every opportunity at Daisy Lodge. We went to glorious Tollymore Forest Park and Castlewellan Park. People in the locality were just so kind. We used the vouchers that were gifted from local business to go to Mauds’ for ice cream and Cocos’s soft play in Newcastle, where the girls had a ball.”
“Our short break was pure luxury. It was wonderful to be invited to Daisy Lodge where we could both relax and have fun in a safe environment where the team understood Esme’s medical history. We couldn’t have received that level of warmth and hospitality anywhere else. We also had the opportunity to meet other families who were going through a similar experience to us.”
“Esme is doing great now. She is happy and loving going to school again. As a family we were devastated when Esme was diagnosed with cancer (and we expect that there will be further health challenges ahead for Esme) but the kindness and practical support of family, friends and colleagues made and continue to make things manageable. Even more unexpected though was the kindness that came from people we didn’t know, like the team in Daisy Lodge, who were both empathetic and positive. As a family experiencing childhood cancer, we were bowled over by the kindness received from the team at Daisy Lodge who recognised and understood the trauma we have been through as a family, and who want to help and bring joy to Esme and our family.”
“To offer this experience to twice as many families by having a second therapeutic centre in Mayo will be incredible.”
Thank you so much to Emmeline for sharing Esme’s story in support of our capital appeal to build a new Daisy Lodge in Co. Mayo to help ensure families across Ireland impacted by childhood cancer receive the emotional and social support they need. To find out more about how you can get involved here.