Debbie and Finn Martin: Finn’s story

Christmas is supposed to be a happy occasion, but for the Martin’s, Christmas of 2015 was overshadowed by their son’s diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

October 2015 was the day our lives changed and our world imploded.

Finn was three years old and a very active child, full of life and energy. So, when he had a cold and an ear infection that refused to get better even with a course of antibiotics, I was concerned.

That awful morning, I took Finn back to our GP again. He had absolutely no colour and just kept falling asleep. The GP sent Finn and I up to Salisbury District Hospital, where he was examined and had bloods taken. Within the hour, our family had the devastating news that Finn had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

He had to start treatment immediately, as he was anaemic, neutropenic and his platelets were very low. Finn had his first blood transfusion the following morning, then we travelled by ambulance to Piam Brown oncology ward in Southampton on Thursday.

There our new lives began, which was terrifying, as we didn’t have a clue what the future held for us or even if we had a future at all.

We were lucky enough to have Dr Jessica Bate as Finn’s consultant, she was (and still is!) amazing. She talked to myself and my husband in great detail all about the disease and the treatment Finn had to face.

He started chemotherapy on the Friday afternoon, following a bone marrow aspirate to absolutely confirm the leukaemia diagnosis. That’s how quickly it happened; Monday, Finn was at nursery school. By Friday, he was in bed with numerous cannulas and having chemotherapy administered.

The treatment for ALL is very long, (for boys it’s over three years) and is split into various phases. The induction phase was hard; Finn had a reaction to the chemotherapy and we ended up in hospital for seven long weeks, some of it in isolation. The chemotherapy ravaged Finn’s joints and he was left unable to walk. Watching him try to crawl was just heart-breaking. He literally had to learn to walk again.

Finn’s brother, Archie, was eight years old at the time and he went from having a mummy at home all the time looking after him, to seeing me just at weekends. I would stay Monday until Friday in hospital and Andy, Finn’s daddy, would spend the weekend there. Siblings of a child with cancer suffer enormously. They have to cope with so much and often without the credit they richly deserve.

We eventually escaped hospital just before Christmas, and at that point we resolved to get as much fun and excitement out of our lives as we could. We have to be careful as Finn is immunosuppressed, but when you put your mind to it you can do some amazing things.

Finn even went ice skating throughout his intense treatment. I’d booked it before he was diagnosed and was utterly determined that he wouldn’t miss out on anything. So, we hired an ice skating seal which Finn sat on and I pushed him around the rink. It’s that simple, we just adapt to each situation as it arises.

Finn continued with the rest of the tough treatment over the following few months. Fortunately, he coped well with everything that was thrown at him and he entered the maintenance phase in May 2016. He will remain on active treatment with daily chemotherapy until 2019.

But he is amazing, a real-life superhero! He is well in himself, is at school full time, is happy, well balanced and confident, can ride a bike and swim; I am so proud.

Last Christmas, Finn and Archie were chosen to switch on our town’s Christmas lights, which was a fantastic experience for them. It was such a contrast to the miserable, sad and unhappy Christmas of the previous year.

So, there is hope at the end of that very long and dark tunnel. It isn’t easy, and ultimately some things are sacrificed along the way, but Finn is here and well and for that I will remain eternally grateful. Finn’s illness has shown us what’s truly important in life; if you have your health and those around you who love you, you don’t need much else. We intend to carry on enjoying life and creating happy memories as a family.


Leukaemia Care turns 50

Leukaemia Care is 50. That’s 50 years of supporting patients and their families and providing them with the right information and advice.

Read More