Sadly, on 20th October 2015, our lives changed forever when Finn was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). He was just three years old.
We were thrust into a terrifying and totally unknown world full of hospitals, blood counts, transfusions, chemotherapy and sheer helplessness. It was nothing short of terrifying.
Finn had a horrendous reaction to the chemotherapy and we had to stay as inpatients on the oncology ward for seven very long weeks, most of it in isolation.
My family were split up, we were miles apart, and even doing the simplest and everyday tasks became a total nightmare. It was impossible to even think straight, you had to take each day literally hour by hour. I felt like I’d been hit by a train but at the same time, I hit the ground running. We had to survive, we had to get through this, there was no other option. It was a very sad and low-key Christmas that year.
Finn endured around seven months of frontline and intensive treatment before he entered the long-term maintenance phase. It basically means he’s still on active treatment with daily chemotherapy and weekly blood tests, but Finn is predominantly at home, which obviously has made life a bit easier.
His hair grew back, he had his port removed, he grew strong enough to walk again and he started school. He’d been through all this and was still only four years old. Finn’s courage and determination are just incredible.
The maintenance phase for us has fortunately been fairly uneventful. We are very strict with hygiene and germs, we tend to avoid very crowded places and we have to be careful of certain food groups. But Finn has had no inpatient hospital stays whatsoever, so our ‘new normal’ very quickly became about having fun, lots of fun.
We go out often, adapting each and every situation to ensure Finn is safe but happy. We do things we may not have considered doing before Finn was taken poorly. Our outlook on life is slightly different to others, our perception has completely changed. Family now comprises of enjoying life, making memories, trying out new experiences and trying to be kinder and more understanding towards others. And most of the time we manage to do just that.
We’ve been to Disneyland Paris (twice!), Lapland, Cornwall, London (Mayfair no less) and numerous weekend and school holiday activities. As a family we have involved our local community and have been busy making little differences to the two hospitals who continue to support us. We have done cake sales, made and sold hundreds of gold cancer ribbons, taken part in sponsored walks, a glow run and collected lots of seasonal gifts. We delivered buckets and buckets of Halloween goodies and almost 100 advent calendars to the wards recently.
We have big plans for next year. It keeps us occupied and we love creating a little bit of happiness in a bewildering place.
Finn finishes his treatment very soon. I am looking forward to that immensely, but if I’m honest, it also terrifies me. That horrible big ‘R’ word – relapse – is never far from my mind. It’s never far away and rears its vile head whenever it feels like it. I don’t honestly think Finn can ever have just a cold, for example, without me going into full blown panic mode. Whether that feeling subsides in time remains to be seen. I don’t think it will.
But right now, I’m so grateful and thankful Finn is here, happy, healthy and looking forward to Christmas like any six-year-old should.
You can read more of Finn’s story here.