Last Christ­mas?

Cassie's fam­ily is hop­ing for a mir­a­cle...

Pick Me Up! - - CONTENTS - To do­nate to­wards Cameron's treat­ment, visit justgiving.com/ crowd­fund­ing/cure4­cam

Us mums can pick up on the tini­est of changes in our kids, can’t we? We’re the first to spot if they’re un­happy, or a lit­tle bit un­der the weather.

Watch­ing my son Cameron, then 11, rip open his Christ­mas presents last De­cem­ber, I no­ticed he was squint­ing. Odd, I thought. As he chat­ted away with his sis­ters Court­ney, 3, and Chloe, 9, I couldn't stop look­ing at it.

‘Are you OK, love?’ I asked him.

He’d had the odd headache of late, too.

Pulling a face, he told me to stop wor­ry­ing.

So, as he seemed fine, I for­got about it.

His dad Harold, 33, has a slight squint, so I just put it down to in­her­ited genes.

But, in the fol­low­ing Jan­uary, he started to com­plain of dou­ble vi­sion.

Then, his bal­ance was un­sta­ble, speech slurred. Some­thing wasn’t right. On 27 Jan­uary, I took Cameron to the GP.

After ex­am­in­ing his eyes, the doc­tor paused, frown­ing.

Ring­ing the hos­pi­tal, he then de­scribed the symp­toms.

‘I’m re­fer­ring you for tests,’ he told us.

After nu­mer­ous blood and bal­ance tests, the doc­tor at Craigavon Hos­pi­tal said they wanted to do a CT scan. My hus­band David, 34, and Cameron’s dad Harold joined us at the hos­pi­tal.

Three hours dragged as we awaited the re­sults of the scan. ‘What if he loses his sight?’ I fret­ted, un­sure what all the scans were about. Tak­ing us to a dif­fer­ent room to Cameron, three doc­tors sur­rounded us. ‘I’m so sorry,’ one said to us. ‘I’m afraid we’ve found a mass on Cameron’s brain. It’s a tu­mour.’

They di­ag­nosed him with a dif­fuse in­trin­sic pon­tine glioma (DIPG) brain tu­mour.

Harold burst in tears, but I wanted to know more.

In­op­er­a­ble

‘So, what are you go­ing to do to fix him then?’ I asked. ‘I’m sorry but it’s in­op­er­a­ble,’ the doc­tor added.

Our whole world fell apart. Un­con­trol­lable sobs erupted from deep in­side me.

‘He could have be­tween nine and 12 months to live,’ they ex­plained gen­tly.

My beau­ti­ful boy. My el­dest. The first of my ba­bies that I held in my arms. Was it really true that we’d just cel­e­brated our last fam­ily Christ­mas all to­gether? Pulling our­selves to­gether to face Cameron, I couldn’t bear telling him ev­ery­thing. ‘The doc­tors have found some­thing on your brain, but we are go­ing to fix it, and we will al­ways

look after you,’ I said, hold­ing him closely to me.

I never wanted to let go. Cameron stayed in hos­pi­tal over the week­end so he could be mon­i­tored, but he was dis­charged after a few days.

Tak­ing a week off school after, soon he was back play­ing footy, in lessons and spend­ing time with his friends.

It was just like noth­ing bad had hap­pened at all.

A ques­tion...

Only, he was far from fine.

At the end of Jan­uary, Cameron started ra­dio­ther­apy.

His body re­acted well, and he didn’t suf­fer any side ef­fects.

His squint dis­ap­peared for a while, too, and he seemed to be bet­ter than ever.

In March, the ar­rival of my third daugh­ter, Caitlin, brought us some re­lief from the aw­ful sit­u­a­tion.

Over time, Cameron found out more about his con­di­tion, though.

‘I have can­cer, don’t I?’ he asked me one day.

‘Yes,’ I replied, be­cause I’d never lie to him.

The more he asked about it, the more

I had to re­veal.

Re­search­ing on­line for any pos­si­ble treat­ment, I found the In­sti­tuto de On­colo­gia In­ter­ven­cionista, in Mex­ico.

A spe­cial­ist can­cer cen­tre, it is one of the only places in the world that is show­ing im­prove­ments in treat­ing DIPG can­cer.

Its re­sults were amaz­ing. ‘I’ve got to take him there,’ I told David and Harold.

Con­tact­ing the cen­tre, it ac­cepted Cameron as a pa­tient.

But a mir­a­cle cure on the other side of the world was never go­ing to be cheap.

It’d cost £25,000 for each round of treat­ment, and we al­ready knew that Cameron would need more than one.

We shared Cameron’s story far and wide through a Justgiving page, and the do­na­tions then poured in.

Gen­er­ous strangers, friends and fam­ily helped raise the cash.

But Cameron’s health was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing.

Soon, he wasn’t able to run around and play with his friends any more.

That squint we now all feared came back.

Time was of the essence. On 20 Septem­ber, hav­ing raised a mas­sive £60,000, we flew out to Mex­ico.

Brave Cameron was so poorly on the plane.

An am­bu­lance col­lected us from the airport.

After two days of re­hy­dra­tion and re­cu­per­a­tion, Cameron had his first round of chemo­ther­apy, which was fol­lowed by im­munother­apy.

‘The tu­mour’s shrunk,’ the spe­cial­ist an­nounced after the first scan fol­low­ing treat­ment.

It was the news we’d been long­ing to hear.

Only, they found an­other le­sion on Cameron’s brain.

In Mex­ico

How­ever, con­fi­dent they can treat it, too, we’re still in Mex­ico now, wait­ing for the fourth round of ther­apy.

Friends and fam­ily are still fundrais­ing like crazy at home.

But it’s work­ing. Cameron’s do­ing so well here. And the tu­mour’s shrink­ing.

The ther­a­pies have made him very sick, though, and he of­ten finds ev­ery­thing com­pletely over­whelm­ing.

Some­times, he just wants to go back home.

We’ll be here un­til 18 De­cem­ber, just a few days be­fore Christ­mas.

With the enor­mous ex­pense of the treat­ment, we know we won’t have much in terms of presents this year.

But see­ing Cameron en­joy­ing an­other Christ­mas is all we really want.

The squint was a symp­tom of his can­cer Soon he wasn’t able to run or play with his friends

Us last Xmas – then ev­ery­thing changed...

Cameron is be­ing so very brave

Cassie Fin­negan, 29, War­ingstown, County Down

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