"Our hearts and lives were broken and we couldn’t be apart"

GUEST BLOGGERS: JANE AND IAN

On the 22nd April 2014, Jane and Ian's lives were changed forever when their three year old boy, Josh, was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer called Burkitts lymphoma. Here they share the story of Josh's recovery and tell us how the Manchester House helped keep them strong. 

When Josh was diagnosed, our world fell apart instantly and shattered into millions of tiny pieces. Words can’t describe the pain and devastation we felt. We cried all night, trying to make sense of what was happening.

The following morning we had to go to Royal Manchester Children’s hospital. Arriving on the children’s oncology ward, our hearts broke seeing children fighting cancer and many looking so poorly; that was going to be our precious son. We met Josh’s incredible consultant and Macmillan nurse and then endured a horrific day of tests and tears.

We were supposed to stay in hospital that night because Josh was booked into theatre early the next day, but that would have meant one of us going home and we couldn’t cope with that. Our hearts and lives were broken and we couldn’t be apart. The following morning we arrived back at the hospital in shock and numb with fear, unable to comprehend that this was happening to our little boy. We held him in our arms as he fell asleep and put our faith and trust in the incredible doctors and nurses on Ward 84....the tears were constant.

After surgery, while Josh recovered on the ward, we found out that there was a room for us at the Ronald McDonald House opposite the hospital. We had heard of Ronald McDonald House Charities and as I am sure most people do, we had donated our spare change in McDonald’s. Until that day however, we had never really appreciated the difference the Charity could make to families, or considered that it might one day become our home from home. We would stay at the House for almost four months, while our precious boy became poorly and fought for his life.

I went across to the House and was greeted by a wonderful and very kind member of the team, who handed me the keys and showed me around. It was incredible. Our bedroom could comfortably sleep four people and had a beautiful bathroom. There were fantastic shared kitchens on every floor with lots of dining space, cupboards and fridge/freezer compartments for each family staying there, plus a washer and dryer to use. There were other communal rooms too, with special events on every day to support families who were staying there.

The ward at night is not a good place for rest: poorly children don’t sleep, often vomiting from their treatment; the machines beep; nurse observations are a regular disturbance; we were constantly going to the toilet with Josh. None of us wanted to leave him overnight, but thanks to the Ronald McDonald House, we could leave the ward when we felt Josh was settled and one of us could have a few hours of unbroken sleep to regain our strength. It gave us such peace of mind that whoever was at the House was literally two minutes away from the ward.

It was a really hard time for our other children, Charlotte and Adam, but the Ronald McDonald House became a very special place we could go with them to give them the time they desperately needed. Charlotte loved heading to the House to cook together and catch up on her day at school.

A very special day was when Josh was well enough to go across to the House and see where mummy and daddy stayed when we weren’t with him at night. He absolutely loved playing with all the different toys in the playroom. It was very emotional when we were able to do this.

The Ronald McDonald House also meant that we met other families whose children were fighting similar battles and we were all able to support each other and form lifelong friendships from the hard times we shared.

The wonderful team of people who work at the House really care about each and every family who stay there and try to make their time as easy as possible. I will never forget one time when Josh was incredibly poorly, walking into the hospital with an amazing dinosaur balloon model which the House staff had made for Josh after hearing of his love for dinosaurs. Such kindness really meant the world to us.

Josh is now 3 years in remission and doing great. He is so full of energy and fun and is never without a smile on his face. He has taught us so much about bravery, courage, love…how precious life is and to embrace every single second. To look at Josh now, you would have no idea of what he has endured. We are truly blessed and thankful.

As a family, we continue to raise awareness of childhood cancer to support earlier diagnosis, improved prognosis, kinder treatments and we pray one day…a cure.

We will also always continue to support incredible charities like Ronald McDonald House Charities, who helped us through the darkest days of our lives.

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