A brave Ballymena schoolboy is backing an inspiring fundraising campaign aimed at beating childhood cancers sooner.
Garron Donnelly, who turned eight last month, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia on May 13, 2013, and is now helping to launch Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens, in partnership with TK Maxx.
Garron’s family know first-hand just how important new breakthroughs and discoveries are to help more youngsters survive, so they’re calling on people in Ballymena and the wider County Antrim to get involved.
With around 60 children diagnosed with cancer in Northern Ireland every year, Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens’ ongoing mission is to raise money to find cures and kinder treatments for cancers affecting children, teens and young adults.
His mum Ruth, said: “I can’t even begin to explain how it feels to be told your child has cancer.
“Garron’s diagnosis turned our lives upside down and our first thoughts were that we were going to lose him.
“We’re so grateful for the treatment that saved his life. Success stories like ours would not be possible without Cancer Research UK’s life-saving work, which in turn relies on everyone who raises vital funds...We hope our story will inspire people to support Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens.”
The first indication there was something wrong with Garron was when a large lump appeared on the side of his neck, which was really painful.
His GP took some bloods in order to investigate and a few days later he was seen at hospital. Many theories were put forward from nothing wrong to TB. The family had building work going on around their house at the time and it was even suggested it might be an infection caused by dirty sand.
“I knew something had to be done for Garron,” adds Ruth “even if only for cosmetic reasons, he couldn’t walk around with this huge lump on his neck.”
Eventually, a biopsy was done, which revealed the devastating news that Garron had Leukaemia. Chemotherapy shrunk the tumour and Garron embarked on a course of treatment which will last until September 2016.
He has oral chemo every night at home, a chemo injection once a month and steroids five days each month.
“One night he had to take 17 tablets,” said Ruth.
“Garron was diagnosed when he was in P1 and he is now in P4. He has coped with months of treatment with unbelievable bravery, strength and resilience, despite all the things he was missing out on while he was ill. He was a real inspiration to us all.
“Now he’s recovering, we’re determined to do everything we can to help other families spend more precious moments together. So we hope our story will inspire people to support Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens, because it’s thanks to research that Garron is here today.”
There are lots of different ways to get involved including making a donation or organising a fundraising event.
Supporters can also buy a gold ribbon pin badge – the awareness symbol for childhood cancers – available at most Cancer Research UK and TK Maxx stores across the UK.
TK Maxx is the largest corporate funder of research into childhood cancers in the UK and has been working in partnership with Cancer Research UK since 2004.
The brands-for-less retailer has raised over £19.7 million for the charity with £15.7 million specifically supporting research into children’s cancers.
The retailer’s flagship fundraiser for Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens is Give Up Clothes for Good, which asks customers to drop off any bags of unwanted clothes, accessories and quality homeware at TK Maxx stores all year round to help beat childhood cancers sooner.
Jean Walsh, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the Northern Ireland said: “Cancer has a devastating impact on children, forcing them to show bravery beyond their years.
“Treatment can last for months, or even years, meaning long stays in hospital away from siblings and friends. Unfortunately, some children also have to face living with side-effects from their treatment which last long into adult life.
“With the public’s help we hope to double the amount we spend on childhood cancers in the next five to 10 years to ensure more children are able to lead happy and healthy lives.
“By boosting funding now, the best research teams could offer children and their families new hope by developing cures and kinder treatments.”
The Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast is one of 21 centres across the UK and Northern Ireland taking part in ground-breaking research coordinated by Cancer Research UK’s Children’s Cancer Trials Team. These trials make innovative new treatments available to children with cancer in Belfast.
For example, one of the trials is trying to determine the best way to treat a rare type of brain tumour that affects children. Doctors don’t know which drugs are most effective so this trial could change treatment globally in the future.
Research such as this has helped to transform the outlook for children with cancer in the UK and now three quarters of under-15s with the disease are cured compared with a quarter in the late 1960s.
If you would like to donate or fundraise for Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens, visit cruk.org/kidsandteens