Anya Dowdall (15) , who lives in Killucan Westmeath with her mum and Dad, Marissa and Thomas, and her sisters Sarah (11) and Louise (6), was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia on the 18th of October 2018 at 13 years old.
Her mum Marissa is sharing their family’s experience of childhood cancer to raise awareness and vital funds to help us build Daisy Lodge Mayo, a new therapeutic short break centre for children across Ireland diagnosed with cancer and their families.
“Anya had spent six weeks going back and forth to our GP work pains in her neck and severe headaches. It got so bad that she ended up in Mullingar A&E where she was given a blood test and diagnosed that very night.
Whilst in A&E Anya received a transfusion of platelets and red blood cells and was transferred to Children’s Health Crumlin, the next morning, where she had four rounds of chemotherapy, followed by three weeks in their paediatric intensive care unit. Anya then had a bone marrow transplant donated by her sister Sarah.
Our Whole World Changed
That night our whole world changed. We never imagined that a cancer diagnosis would ever be something we’d have to deal with and certainly not with one of our children. One minute we were a normal, busy family enjoying work and school. Our youngest, Louise had just started in junior infant school and I had begun a new career in childcare. Suddenly the rug was pulled from under us and life became very different.
We were so lucky to have the help and support of our wonderful families. We relied so much on them. Anya’s siblings missed her so much as she spent most of the first seven months of her treatment in hospitals between Mullingar and Crumlin. Sarah and Louise would go to school not knowing who was picking them up and wondering if their Mammy and sister would be there when they got home.
Being the oldest, it was Anya’s job to look after her little sisters, which she did so well. Now it was the other way around. Sarah and Louise took on the task of caring for their big sister and keeping her spirits up. Louise would come to her room each morning and help me to disconnect Anya’s feeding tube and to help give her medication. Louise called it, “Doing Anya’s surgery”.
Sarah bravely overcame her fear of needles and hospitals to donate bone marrow to Anya and was so proud to do it. One thing that did not change was that the three girls were a great team and best of friends.
Time to Rejuvenate
Going to Cancer Fund for Children’s Daisy Lodge in Co. Down was a fabulous experience for all of us as it gave us the time to rejuvenate and spend time together as a family away from the harsh reality of chemo, surgery and blood tests. Our short break allowed us to time to be “normal”.
The setting was stunning, and the staff were lovely, so kind and friendly. The girls loved the freedom they had within Daisy Lodge. They could play and explore in a safe environment. They enjoyed every minute of their time in Newcastle, but they especially loved the yoga class we participated in. It was a new experience for them, and since we’ve come home, they have practiced more yoga.
After our break we felt rested and ready to face whatever challenges lay ahead of us. The girl’s grandmother came with us to Daisy Lodge and it was a well-earned rest for her too. She needed the break after all she had done for us, especially Anya.
Daisy Lodge Mayo
To have a Daisy Lodge in Mayo would be fantastic for Anya and for other children like her diagnosed with cancer and their families. It would provide them with a bit of joy in a situation where it can often be very hard to find.
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 or make an online donation today