In 2018 Patricia Morris was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. In July that year she had a lumpectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She, her husband Paddy and two children Aoife (17) and Colm (13) have been supported by Cancer Fund for Children. Patricia shares their story.
What do you say to Teenagers?
“When I was first diagnosed, I went to Craigavon Hospital on my own. It was the very first day of the summer holidays. Aoife had finished school early as she had been doing her fourth year exams and was at her granny’s house.
My husband came up to meet me at the hospital and we went to the Macmillan Information Centre together. The girl at the hatch asked how she could help, and I told her: “I need to know what to say to teenagers?”
She gave me a booklet and as we were travelling home, I opened it and all I could see was the word ‘honesty’. I decided from that day on that Colm and Aoife were going to know everything. My cancer diagnosis was very hard on them at first. There were a lot of tears, They didn’t really know how to cope with their emotions. That was where Cancer Fund for Children came in.
We had a family holiday booked which was a great distraction. My doctor advised us to go on our holiday and said I could have my operation after, so we went away on 31st July and I had my lumpectomy when I returned on 9th August, which was my wedding anniversary.
The next day when I was going home, I called into the Macmillan Information Centre again and the girl there recommended I contact Cancer Fund for Children and gave me an information pack.
A Part Of The Furniture
Aoife and Colm were in Cancer Fund for Children’s 12-17 year old Young Shoulders Group which helps young people who are struggling with their parent’s cancer. It was great that they could be supported together and they both loved their Cancer Support Specialist, Gareth.
Gareth had originally contacted me in September to arrange to come out and meet the kids in November. I honestly had no clue what to expect but when he came into our house that first time, he looked at the pictures of the two children on the wall and started chatting. It felt like Gareth was my brother coming into the house. He became part of the furniture straight away.
Gareth just sat down and started chatting away to them. It was great that he took that time to get to know them. When they went on their first residential, I was still going through treatment. It felt good knowing that they were going to be well looked after.
A Release For Them
Aoife and Colm’s first residential experience was a release for them. They didn’t talk a lot about what they did, but I just knew by their faces that they had had a great time. Aoife has also completed her Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award with Cancer Fund for Children. She had a tough time before my diagnosis and Cancer Fund for Children really helped her.
Aoife is very determined now and knows exactly what she wants. Her personality shines out. She is now focused on what she wants to do, not what her friends are doing, and is much more confident. She is really passionate about cooking and during lockdown has turned her passion into a business setting up ‘Baked by Aoife’. Colm also got creative and made me lots of flower boxes when I was sick. I really am so proud of them both.
Developing Life-Skills and Building Confidence
Cancer Fund for Children has helped Aoife and Colm figure out that life isn’t just about education, grades, and material things. It’s about how they help others. I credit the support they have received from the charity for helping Aoife and Colm develop life-skills and build up their confidence. They can interact with people more now. Aoife is volunteering in a youth club; both have part-time jobs and Colm has a real passion for painting machinery.
Going away on residential and meeting other young people who have a parent with cancer has been so important to them. They have benefited from the feel good factor, from other people taking the time to talk to them, and from being away from home for a while. You can get wrapped up in your own world. As parents we were happy because we knew they were so happy. It also gave me and my husband Paddy time to talk which was important too. It allowed us time to have those difficult conversations.
Watching Aoife and Colm develop over the last two years has really helped me cope as I know they are both so happy.
Daisy Lodge Is Out Of This World
When we first went to Daisy Lodge as a family, I realised why the kids were so happy on residential. The place is just out of this world. We were blown away. The atmosphere is so calm, and the staff are so attentive. I remember looking out of the windows and being in awe of the view. The sun was shining even though it was February. It was just amazing.
Going to Daisy Lodge was our first opportunity we had to do something together as a family since my operation and the start my cancer treatment. We were able to enjoy the simple things in life like going for a walk and benefiting from the treatments on offer. I was very tired, but it was just great to switch off and relax.
I Can’t Thank Cancer Fund for Children Enough
I can’t thank Cancer Fund for Children enough. I have always wanted to give something back which is why I have donated Forever Living products to Daisy Lodge. A lot of good has come from my cancer treatment. I developed the confidence to set up my own online business. I’m so passionate about Forever Living products as they really helped my skin during treatment. I wanted to be able to gift some products to other parents going through treatment. My manager has also had cancer and been to Daisy Lodge, so we donated products together at a recent Health and Wellbeing day.
Life During Lockdown
Lockdown wasn’t hard on Aoife and Colm thanks to the skills they have developed with Cancer Fund for Children’s support. I feel Covid-19 is affecting me more now that the lockdown measures are being relaxed. I didn’t go out to the local shops. I did my shopping online and because we live in the countryside and on a farm it felt like the summer holidays. We were used to self-isolating.
I had a tumour removed at the start of April. Thankfully, it was benign and two weeks ago I had another procedure and I’m waiting on biopsy results. Aoife is quite happy to come to hospital appointments with me just to get out of the house for the day. I am a little anxious with lockdown easing. I don’t know if I’m ready for seeing people now, but I read a positive quote every day. The other day I read the messages on the positive pebbles the children made when we stayed in Daisy Lodge which made me smile.
Gareth Is There If I Need To Contact Him
Gareth has kept in touch during lockdown and I always know he is there if I need to contact him. Colm was having a tough time earlier this year and Gareth came down and took him out for the evening. They had a good chat and perhaps Colm told him stuff that he wouldn’t tell me. I don’t need to know as long as he is happy to do that. Gareth is just amazing. He is so passionate about his job, as are all the Cancer Fund for Children staff.
Every Penny Counts
If you can support Cancer Fund for Children, please know any small donation is a step towards helping a family affected by cancer. I want other families to have the same experiences we have enjoyed thanks to Cancer Fund for Children. Because of the times we are in charities have been hit really hard. Every penny donated really counts. Nobody knows when cancer is going to knock on their door.
We are so grateful to Patricia for sharing her family’s experience of cancer. Children who are struggling with the emotional impact of cancer need our support now more than ever. Please, if you can, donate what you can today to help us support more families like Patricia’s.