People say having a birthday on the 08/08/08 is good luck, maybe for some it is, not for Molly. She was born at 2.11pm on that day and from the second we saw her we were hooked, that was it, our family was complete, she was the last piece of the jigsaw, a baby sister to Stephanie, Jill and James and we never thought for a second we would experience what was to lie ahead. As a mother when your is child is born you go through all sorts of emotions but you also look to the future especially when your child is asleep and you gaze at them with all your love, you think of their first words, what will it be, please God it's not "dada", their first steps, starting school, holy communion, confirmation and finally seeing them walk down the aisle. Unfortunately for Molly we just about got to starting school and that was it, she was robbed, the nightmare had started. Molly had started to feel unwell just as she had started school and like any parent she was brought to the GP. There she was treated for constipation and had routine blood tests done which showed that she had low iron levels. We were given suggestions on how to alter her diet and that was that. But the constipation continued and continued and after 3 trips to A&E in the Lourdes, Drogheda, she was admitted. For the next five days she had countless blood tests, a pelvic ultrasound, x-ray's, keyhole surgery was suggested as she had starting limping, the doctors were baffled. Finally, one doctor suggested that she have an abdominal ultrasound and once that was done a CT scan was ordered immediately. At 4.20pm on 22nd October 2013 Molly was diagnosed with cancer.
How do you react when you are told your child has cancer, you don't, you go into shock. We were transferred from Drogheda by ambulance to Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin on 23rd of October after a very long sleepless night. I have never been so scared in my whole life and Molly was the same. We stayed in a general ward that night and Gerry had to go home, he wasn't allowed to stay. Fortunately for us we were sharing a room with another family and their little girl who happened to be the same age as Molly. As long as I live I will never forget the kindness that was shown to Molly and me that night by those people, it helped us get through the night. The following day we met our Consultant and we were told Molly had stage 4 Neuroblastoma, a cancer that develops in the nervous system. It sneakily and aggressively creates a tumour that originates from one of the adrenal glands and at stage 4 it had spread to Molly's bones, bone marrow and the lymph nodes in her stomach. Neuroblastoma is one of the most common forms of childhood cancer but when it progresses to stage 4 ( i.e. Approx 1 in 200,000 kids) it not only becomes incredibly hard to treat but can also be fatal. I've heard of parents saying that they are on a journey and I think to myself "what?", it's not a journey, a journey is something nice, planned, you know where you started and you're damn sure you know where it's going to finish, this is living hell, a cul-de-sac that you don't know how you're going to get out of.
As the next couple of days passed Molly had a lot of procedures done including a Hickman line been inserted and was really tested to the limit. After 5 nights we were transferred to St.John's Ward, the thing we dreaded most. Anyone who has been to John's will know it is the longest walk you will ever take, it's in the depths of Crumlin hospital and when I saw the sign "Oncology" over the door, the realisation of what was ahead sunk in. I'd watched the documentaries on the telly, seen the clips on the news but never for one second thought that cancer would ever knock on our door, but it did. The next few days were spent with consultants, nurses, specialists, dieticians, social workers, all of whom bombarded us with information, none of which sunk in at the time, Gerry felt angry that this had happened to Molly, his little pet and I just wanted to cry all the time. But we had to pick ourselves up and focus on her and her treatment, so we started to listen and ask questions and we got our heads right. Molly started treatment on 29th October and has since completed 8 rounds of highly intensive chemotherapy, 2 rounds of TVD chemotherapy, bone marrow aspirates, MIBG scans, CT scans, she has had that many blood transfusions we've lost count, endless nights in hospital between routine visits to Crumlin and unplanned ones to Drogheda with sickness, temperatures, mouth infections, ulcers, weight loss etc which resulted in an NG tube been inserted and through it all she has had a smile on her face and has never complained, not once , not even when I have to inject her every night with artificial white cells, she just says "Mammy do it quickly".
We don't know what the future holds for Molly other than her protocol which still includes more chemotherapy, surgery, bone marrow transplant, radiotherapy and immunotherapy, but we do know that we will do anything to make sure she gets the best chance of life. In order for us to be able to give her that chance we need to be able to give her the best treatment. Crumlin and Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in Drogheda are doing amazing things for Molly and the treatment she is receiving is world class but we might get to a point where she'll need more. We have every faith in the world that Molly's treatment will work and she will get the "all clear" but we also have to be realistic and be prepared for the future. We are, as parents, hoping that you good people will help us and we will be eternally grateful to you all. We just want our little girl to grow up, be happy, healthy and live life to the full.
Emma and Gerry McNally.