Health: Mum shares son’s cancer story to raise charity funds

Mary Theresa Boyd with her son Callum
Mary Theresa Boyd with her son Callum

A mother whose little boy is battling cancer is urging people to get ‘All Wrapped Up’ this Christmas in support of families affected by the illness

Mary Theresa Boyd’s eight-year-old son Callum was diagnosed with leukaemia shortly after Christmas, in January 2011. There had been no obvious signs we was so ill.

He had been in nursery, and had had a cold that he couldn’t shake off. When his doctor referred him to the hospital for tests, his mum and dad Daniel received the news every parent fears. Callum had leukaemia.

Mary Theresa, from Portglenone, said: “The first time Callum was diagnosed it was awful – the end of the world. His little sister Megan was only a baby so it was so hard for me to just get up and leave her.

‘‘At the time all I can remember feeling was pure panic, fear and worry. It was very daunting being taken into a corridor and a hospital ward that we had never been on before.

‘‘When you hear the word cancer you automatically think the worst. It was very worrying for quite a few weeks at the start until we got our heads around it.”

After undergoing three-and-a-half years of gruelling chemotherapy on and off, as well as a variety of drugs and steroids Callum was given the all clear only to suffer another blow when he relapsed in March 2015.

On one of his regular check-ups his parents were told that he had an ear infection and would need to stay over as his blood counts weren’t normal.

Mary Theresa said: “We just knew then that something wasn’t right.

‘‘We always said if it ever happened again we didn’t know how we’d cope.

‘‘He will now go down the same treatment route but the chemotherapy will be more intense this time.

‘‘The treatment and steroids really affect him and make him quite zoned out and very tired. He doesn’t know where he’s at.”

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, they can often spend many weeks or months receiving treatment in hospital, meaning that they are away from home, school, family and friends for long periods of time.

Cancer Fund for Children works on the hospital ward and in the community supporting children at their most vulnerable, giving them the chance to have some fun together, to feel less isolated and to help them work through their feelings.

Cancer Fund for Children’s specialist, Sara Kieran provided the family with one-to-one support throughout Callum’s treatment.

Mary Theresa said: “When we first received help from Cancer Fund for Children we knew it wasn’t the end. We knew what road we were on. Having somebody there to talk to was the best part. It’s easy to talk to family but at same time you don’t want to burden them. It was good to talk to somebody neutral.

‘‘Sara also visited Callum in hospital. All of the kids really loved it when she visited. When they are confined to the ward with their parents all time they like to see new faces and do different activities that don’t involve us. ‘‘It might seem like a small thing but her visits also gave us a chance to go get a cup of tea and relax.

‘‘Something we will always cherish as a family was our therapeutic short break at Daisy Lodge in Newcastle. As a family we were exhausted and running on empty.

‘‘The time we spent at Daisy Lodge gave us the chance to have a break away from our daily life which had become about hospital visits and intensive treatments.”

Now Mary Theresa is urging the Northern Ireland public to sign up to Cancer Fund for Children’s All Wrapped Up Christmas Jumper Campaign so the charity can help more families.

Cancer Fund for Children’s director of services, Liz Osborne said: “Cancer Fund for Children supports families when they are at their most vulnerable and we know from experience that Christmas can be one of the toughest times of the year.

‘‘We are asking you to help us fill businesses, schools and homes across Northern Ireland with Christmas jumpers and get All Wrapped Up so more families like Callum’s don’t have to face Christmas alone.”

 For more information about All Wrapped Up which is kindly sponsored by Bangor Fuels and Fusco Vehicle Sales visit or call 028 9080 5599.