A family watching a second child fight cancer have reminded everyone that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Nicola Skehan and her partner James Doran lost their five-year-old son Sean to neuroblastoma in February 2016.
Now they are keeping a vigil as the brother he never got to meet – Mikey – is treated in hospital. He is only eight-months’-old and undergoing intensive treatment for leukaemia.
“When Mikey was born he was tested for neuroblastoma, what Sean had,” said Nicola.
“It came back clear, which we were happy to hear.”
That was last December, but on February 18, when he was 10-weeks-old, Mikey was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at their local hospital in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.
“We were in complete shock and disbelief,” added Nicola.
Sean and Mikey’s brother Dylan (12) is going into secondary school and is also living through having a second sibling deal with the disease.
Mikey is being treated at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin, where the staff are “amazing”, according to his parents.
“I don’t think we were fully aware at the time as to how critically ill Mikey was,” said Nicola.
“He fought hard to stay with us and after 10 days in ICU was well enough to return to the St John’s Ward.”
The tot had four months of intensive chemotherapy before receiving a bone marrow transplant from a donor, which means he has had to spend the past five weeks in isolation.
“Mikey will remain isolated for roughly 100 days post-transplant,” said Nicola.
“It will be at least a year before we could say the transplant is a success, but this is Mikey’s only possible chance of a cure.
“We believe Mikey has his own guardian angel, his big brother Sean, who will watch over him.
“No family should have to go through this once, let alone a second time. It’s so cruel.”
The couple decided to share their story “to help spread awareness of childhood cancer”.