“We had somewhere to refresh and rest, to be at our best for Poppy”

“We had somewhere to refresh and rest, to be at our best for Poppy”

Shortly after Poppy celebrated her first birthday, her family noticed that something wasn’t quite right. Poppy’s progress was deteriorating and after a check-up at their local GP, her family were given devastating news: Poppy had a brain tumour.

To mark the end of Childhood Cancer Awareness month, Poppy’s mum Katie-Ann shared her family’s story with us, explaining what it’s like to be affected by childhood cancer, and how the Manchester House helped keep their family strong.

GUEST BLOGGER: KATIE-ANN

I noticed something wasn’t quite right with Poppy from about six months old. She wasn’t reaching any milestones – we went to our GP and another local hospital so many times. We were turned away with the same reasoning over and over: ‘all children are different, and some are slower then others’. No one listened. Poppy started sitting up at around nine months but by 11, she could no longer sit unaided. Two weeks before her first birthday she was really unwell and could barely stay awake, something our GP just blamed on a sore throat and teething.

Thankfully one of Poppy’s hospital appointments was brought forward, where the doctors noticed that her head was 6 cm too big for a child of her age. Later that night, she was violently sick and rushed for an emergency MRI scan at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. This revealed a massive brain tumour (which then turned out to be two).

We first heard about Ronald McDonald House Charities when we were on the high dependency unit with Poppy and one of the nurses explained what it was about. At the time we had one of the single family rooms at the hospital, but only one of us could sleep there at a time. There were no other rooms available and the facilities were limited.

When we got our room at Ronald McDonald House Manchester, we realised it was completely the opposite: the room slept up to four people with an en-suite bathroom. It made such a difference to our very stressful situation, as we now had somewhere to refresh and rest, to be at our best for Poppy. It was such a relief knowing that we weren’t going to be separated from each other. Grace, Poppy’s five-year-old sister, was also able to spend quality one-on-one time with her dad without him leaving the hospital for too long, as Poppy was too poorly.

One of my happiest memories of the House and Poppy’s journey was when she was allowed to leave the ward for the first time in five weeks and venture outside. We went over to the House and enjoyed the afternoon in the garden and playroom. Poppy was so incredibly happy to be outside in the sun after five weeks of isolation. When she was out of isolation but not ready to go home, we spent a lot of time at the House as it was much more homely and comfortable than the hospital for the family.

It was a happy day when we packed to leave, but sad too…leaving not just the hospital, but the House too. You dream of the day you get to leave but when that day actually comes, you realise you’re leaving such a great support network behind. Knowing that Poppy was well meant everything, but the House had been such a great comfort to us it was sad to leave.

Poppy is doing immensely well now. She has just celebrated her second birthday and is crawling, pulling herself up and even learning to talk, something which is very difficult for her as she has severe hearing loss after chemotherapy.

Poppy’s story may have been very different if we had known the symptoms she had presented for such a long time had been cancer – she wouldn’t have suffered for as long as she did. This is why raising awareness for childhood cancer is so important to us; to save lives and prevent unnecessary suffering.

And to anyone thinking of supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities, please do it. Your money will be going towards making the biggest difference to families with the sickest of children. Families will have somewhere to sleep, eat and wash. It makes such a difference to be able to do these things during such a difficult time. You will also save families money, as they won’t have to pay horrible amounts on hospital food and travel.

We can never thank the Charity enough.

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