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Rachel’s Story

Rachel never showed any symptoms. If she hadn’t gotten her routine eye exam, we never would have thought something was wrong.

Rachel was just five years old when she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma in October 2022. Her mam, Geraldine, is sharing their story to help raise awareness for childhood cancer and the importance of routine check-ups.

I brought Rachel to Sligo hospital as an outpatient after an eye exam in school suspected she may need glasses. I wasn’t too concerned as her sister wears glasses, so I thought it would just be a minor thing. Once the doctor put the drops in her right eye, that’s when they could see the tumour. That’s when we were told Rachel has cancer. The next day we were in Temple Street Hospital in Dublin for Rachel to get more tests. It all happened so quickly; it was a complete shock.

A common symptom for this type of cancer is a glow in the pupil of the eye, but Rachel has never had that, or any other symptoms. The sight in her right eye had been deteriorating over time due to the tumour, but because her left eye was compensating for that, she never complained about her vision. She seemed perfectly fine. If she hadn’t gotten her routine eye exam at school, we never would have thought something was wrong.

There is currently no treatment available for retinoblastoma in Ireland. Two weeks after her diagnosis, Rachel and her mam travelled to Birmingham for her first round of treatment.

My husband and I decided early on that I would travel with Rachel while he stayed home to look after our other two children. The amount of travelling we do can be difficult on the whole family; since Rachel’s diagnosis, we have travelled to Birmingham twenty times. It’s hard on all of us to spend so much time apart.

It was during a round of treatment in Birmingham that Rachel’s team mentioned Cancer Fund for Children. So, we reached out to the charity and all five of us were invited to Daisy Lodge for a short break in January 2024. Daisy Lodge was just brilliant! All the staff there, from catering to housekeeping, do an amazing job. The kids had great fun doing arts and crafts, and the girls were delighted getting their hair and nails done in the Spa. My daughter and I both got a Reflexology treatment; it was so relaxing. Our stay at Daisy Lodge was a wonderful opportunity for us, as a family, to spend some quality time together, make new memories, and just forget about cancer for a little while.

We didn’t leave Daisy Lodge once during our stay because we just loved being there!

We left Daisy Lodge feeling well rested and it gave Rachel a boost for our next trip to Birmingham. Rachel has been responding well to her treatment so we’re hoping this is one of the last few trips we need to make.

 

If there’s one thing someone could take away from our experience, I hope it would be the importance of routine check-ups. I know that sometimes they can be a pain to fit into your schedule, but they are so important, especially for children.

If you would like to help us support more children like Rachel, donate to our services today and help ensure no child has to face cancer alone.