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Katie Seymour

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

  • Hattie and Katie

For a child, the journey when facing chemotherapy, tests, operations and being ‘bribed’ in and out of painful procedures is hard. But it's also hard being the sibling that stays at home, always missing one parent or the other. Having to stare at your sibling’s empty bed every night, not really understanding why they're not there or why they're getting away with having movies at midnight or crisps for breakfast, but you're not allowed. 

My son went into school one Wednesday morning, as usual. He then faced the next two weeks being collected by other members of his family. He was cared for 100% by grandparents, aunties and close friends. He didn't get mummy home for two weeks and he didn't see a regular family dinner for months. 

This was my son, Dexter’s introduction to cancer, when his one-year-old sister, Hattie was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Thankfully he hasn't had any previous experience of the word cancer, so he has never fully understood its biggest risks. To him, as a five year old, he knows that his sister gets prodded and poked and he has to be careful. He knows that at the drop of a hat, his parents might dump him with Grandma to rush to be with Hattie, who is now two years old. 

As a mother, I am constantly torn in two between Dexter and Hattie; in the hospital with her, wanting to pick up him from school and wrap my arms around him to congratulate his latest reading success. Or I’m home with him, anxiously washing the clothes and drying them fast enough to pack and get back to her, before the phone rings again because she has another infection or her blood results aren't as they should be. It's amazing how fast you become used to what you have to do – a new normal.

Hattie’s dad, Chris, and I pass like ships in the night. Like the nurses, we have our de-briefing "handover" and exchange any additional dates for the school or hospital diaries.  

I long for the days I can re-stock my fridge and organise the weekly dinner menus. For the busy rush of the school run and the additional stress of a looming rain cloud. When I tuck my two children into bed, under one roof and turn my phone off - because any emergency situation won't be called in to me. I long to return to life with two healthy, happy and wonderfully boisterous children. 

I think from the outside, people sometimes just see the cancer and the person who has been diagnosed. But it doesn't just affect them. The ripple effect that occurs at school, at home and between parents, aunties, uncles and grandparents is immense.

Looking after every aspect of a childhood cancer case is never-ending and all-time, all-energy consuming. Don't get me wrong, I was equipped to do this, I have been taught things throughout my life that have enabled me to cope and deal with this, but it is a living nightmare all the same. I just wish Hattie and Dexter didn't have to cope with it all because I would happily carry it for them for the rest of my life.