A message of hope
THE mother of a 12-year-old girl who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia seven years ago is keen to give hope to other families faced with a similar situation. Naomi McNeil, of Stoneley in Letchworth GC, was devastated when it was discovered
THE mother of a 12-year-old girl who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia seven years ago is keen to give hope to other families faced with a similar situation.
Naomi McNeil, of Stoneley in Letchworth GC, was devastated when it was discovered her daughter, Louise, had the potentially fatal illness.
"At the time she was diagnosed she was four and a half," she said.
"At the moment I can still remember the day as if it was yesterday.
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"She was in the room when we were told, but obviously at her age she had no idea what it meant."
Ms McNeil had taken Louise to her doctors' surgery because she had been feeling unwell.
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One doctor said she had the flu and another said she was anaemic.
Louise, who is a pupil at Fearnhill School in Letchworth GC, was sent for tests and the results were given to Louise's family at Lister Hospital.
Ms McNeil, 42, said: "As a mother you cope by going on auto pilot. You deal with each day at a time.
"You have to cope because it is your child and you would do anything for them."
Louise had to have two years of treatment.
Ms McNeil said: "She had to have lots of steroids, chemo and all sorts of toxic medicines.
"We almost lost her at Christmas in 2001. Her body had had enough of all the medicines.
"But she was given the all clear in May this year. She is classed as a survivor because she has had five years without medication.
"It's something that we intend to mark with a big celebration, but we are still finding our feet a bit."
Louise has a few health problems as a result of her illness and the medications she has had to take. For instance, she has asthma and struggles to control her weight.
Ms McNeil, who also has a 14-year-old son, Grant, who attends Fearnhill School, said: "I also don't know to this day whether she can ever have children, but she's alive and that's the main thing.
"At one point she was on life support, but she is still here and doing well.
"I want to give hope to other people who are dealing with something like this.
"Now, Louise is able to live a normal life. Emotionally it's affected her because she's lost a lot of her childhood, but she's now at school with everybody else and, physically, she's as active as she can be. She joins in with PE and sports days with her friends.
"That's all I want for her - to be a normal child.
"I would like to say thank-you to all the medical staff, to the schools, past and present, and to all my friends.
"My message to anyone who is going through something similar is to never give up hope.
"The survival rate of people who are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is improving all the time.
"Just take each day at a time.
"It doesn't matter what the problem is, or how big or small it is, just take each day at a time.
"A lady I met was worried sick because her child had tonsillitis. She said she felt awful for worrying so much when she realised what was wrong with my daughter, but I told her it doesn't matter what it is, if it is your child then it matters to you.
"Don't give up, whatever is thrown at you.