Louisa McEleney’s son Alex was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2017. Alex finished treatment in October 2020 however in February 2021 the family was told the devasting news that his cancer had returned. Louisa is sharing their experience to raise awareness of the impact of childhood cancer and the need for a second therapeutic short break centre, Daisy Lodge in Co. Mayo.
“I live in Balydoyle, Dublin with my husband Peter and our three teenage children Lauren, Alex, and Ava. I am a special education teacher and Peter, originally from Derry, is an architect. Peter and Alex are keen cyclists and the girls, and I love all things fashion. We love going on holidays together and enjoy each other’s company.
A Day Etched On My Mind Forever
The 27th of June 2017 is one of those days that is etched on my mind forever! It was the day my gorgeous 11-year-old son was diagnosed with leukaemia. My child who had rarely had as much as a cold in his whole life had cancer!
Alex had just turned 11 years old when we noticed some dark bruises on his legs. He was a very lively boy and keen footballer and at the time we were not overly worried. However, while we were on holiday in Alicante, we noticed that Alex’s bruises were not healing at all and that he bruised at the slightest bump. He then developed what we thought was a heat rash.
When we returned from our holiday, I took Alex to our GP who was not concerned at all but gave me a letter for bloods to be taken in Temple Street Children’s Hospital. She said not to hurry but my gut told me she was wrong, so I took him the very next morning.
Alex had never had as much as a cold before and never had his blood taken so I took him out for a treat. The nurse said we would have results in 7-10 days. An hour later my phone rang, and my GP said we needed to go to Crumlin (Children’s Health Ireland) straight away.
Treatment Began Immediately
That day Alex was diagnosed with leukaemia. Treatment began immediately. Alex was heartbroken, as were we and our circle of friends and family. Everyone rallied around us and gave us so much support it was incredible.
My husband Peter and I picked ourselves up and we got on that roller coaster guided by the strength of our warrior Alex, his two beautiful sisters, and each other. We cried, we laughed, and we learned a lot!
Our social worker told us a little about Cancer Fund for Children’s Daisy Lodge early on in treatment. I just knew a therapeutic break there was something we really needed.
Beautiful Time Together
We went for the first time in late 2017. It was such a perfect respite from everything we were going through. Even though we were worn out and Alex was not feeling great our break gave us such a
beautiful time together as a family.
It was so special to have time away from it all, just the five of us. Alex said he didn’t feel like he had cancer when he was there, what a gift. We had beautiful home-cooked meals handed to us every day and enjoyed the beautiful and peaceful setting of Daisy Lodge. We came home refreshed and rejuvenated and continued to talk about those few days for years after. A lovely memory in a time of turbulence.
Alex finished treatment on the 27th of October 2020. Three years and four months later we rang that bell that stated, “Ring this bell three times well, its toll to clearly say, my treatments done this course is run and now I’m on my way!” We floated out of the hospital that day confident we would never return.
The Call That Rocked Us
However, three and a half months later on Friday 19th of February 2021, we got the call that rocked us to our core. Alex had relapsed and we were heartbroken. I don’t have the words to describe our pain that weekend.
Around a week after he relapsed, Alex and the girls asked if it would be possible to go back to Daisy Lodge. The idea put a smile on everyone’s face. We were delighted to be invited back on the 4th of May for two nights. Considering we hadn’t left Dublin due to COVID-19 it was such a treat to leave the county, never mind the hospital and our home, which has
constant reminders that Alex is back in treatment.
The minute we arrived in Daisy Lodge I felt my shoulders relax. Dinner was handed to us straight away. We had the dining room to ourselves and the lightness and giddiness in our conversation was the best it had been since Alex’s relapse.
Our short break gave us each other back, without work stress, hospital stress, cancer stress, just us as we always were, a bit silly and giddy. Alex said it was the first time he felt like his old self and the first time he felt no one in the family was walking on eggshells around him. Amazing!
It is so important to have this service continue during the pandemic because COVID has created excess stress for families. Only one parent can enter the hospital at a time so myself and Peter are like passing ships handing over a visitor card at the door.
Daisy Lodge Brings Families Together
The girls are not even allowed in the door, so they miss their brother and are imagining all sorts. Whilst COVID divides families, Daisy Lodge brings them together. The staff deal with all the precautions and safety measures so well and we felt safe and protected every moment of our stay.
We came home refreshed and ready to take on the next step – a bone marrow transplant. We will be separated for a number of weeks for the procedure so those few days together as a family, eating, laughing, doing an art project, participating in a family wellbeing class, and walking around the beautiful park and town were truly priceless. We cannot say thank you enough to everyone who made our short break happen.
Alex Is A True Warrior
Alex is in great form, a little anxious about transplant, naturally. He believes he is blessed; he believes that everything, even this, happens for a reason. He is so positive and such an uplifting person to be around. Nothing seems to faze him. He is a true warrior.
I am so excited that Daisy Lodge will have a second site in Mayo. I can’t imagine how many families are in need and they all truly deserve some Daisy Lodge magic. Hopefully together Mayo and Newcastle can reach many more deserving families.
One hundred thousand THANK YOUs from the McEleney family, Louisa, Peter, Lauren, Alex and Ava
If you would like to support our capital appeal to build a new Daisy Lodge in Cong Co. Mayo please contact our Ireland Relationship Manager Belinda Kearns, e: firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can get involved or join our Daisy Chain campaign by making a donation or organising a fundraiser here.