As a family, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, to say we’ve been through a lot is an understatement. But I’ve decided to share my story to show that sometimes there is chance of a silver lining.
My husband Michael and I had been married for five years when we had our first child, Neil. He was very contented and reached all his milestones as any other child would. 21 months later, we welcomed our second child Anna into the world. We felt extremely lucky and blessed to have two wonderful children. They were complete opposites but got on like a house on fire.
When Anna was born, everything soon fell into place and we were a very happy little family but unfortunately this didn’t last for long. When Neil was around two and a half we noticed a large lump near his groin and we took him straight to the doctors where he was referred to our local hospital. Neil had a number of tests and following these we were given the devastating news. It was Friday 13th and it certainly lived up to its name, my baby Neil was diagnosed with Wilms tumour, a rare form of kidney cancer. My blood boiled when we found out the news – I was just so angry this was happening to our family - but I held back.
Neil soon underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy and the chemotherapy made him lose all of his gorgeous baby curls. The hospital trips seemed to go on forever but it was only about four months later that these slowed down as fortunately Neil was making a remarkable recovery. Before long he was starting school and although he had to go for regular check-ups and tests, to all appearances he was a normal health boy.
Ten years after his diagnosis he was given the all clear and the appointments finally came to an end. We didn’t know what side effects he might incur from the treatment in later life. One thing we worried about was that he might not be able to have children when he was older - but that was something we had to get past. We just felt so grateful we had a happy healthy son.
As Anna grew up, she learned what Neil had been through and she was very supportive of her brother. Little did we know what Anna had to come. On Anna’s 31st birthday she was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia – we couldn’t believe what was happening; I thought, ‘not again, please’. Fortunately thanks to the amazing research that is happening she was put on a drug called Glivec which she responded really well to.
She is still having regular checks but she is in remission and has been running half-marathons, and will be doing Race for Life this summer too.
After years of worrying and a whirlwind of emotions my husband and I just felt so lucky to have both our children still with us. We’re so proud of them. Neil has gone on to be a pilot and Anna works in property.
Life has certainly thrown a lot at us but we are so appreciative of where we are now and luck has finally been on our side – both of our amazing children have now had children of their own. We did not see this coming after all they had been through! Our first little miracle, Kian, Neil’s son was born in 2006 and is a spitting image of his dad. And then, in 2011, Anna had gorgeous Ava, who is six.
We are supporting World Cancer Day this year, to raise awareness and encourage people to support Cancer Research UK’s work, because we don’t want people to have to go through what we have. We have seen first-hand that research really can save lives and we want to do all we can to help make a difference to families like ours.
Gillian is supporting Cancer Research UK. Get involved on World Cancer Day, Sunday 4 February, and wear a Unity Band to help fund research right now. Visit cruk.org/worldcancerday