Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Brave Oscar Knox has shown us we can be so much more

By Gail Walker

Published 22/04/2014 | 10:12

Personal trainer Danielle Johnston who received death threats  over her Facebook post
Personal trainer Danielle Johnston who received death threats over her Facebook post
Lanterns were released across Belfast to remember Oscar Knox. Pic Twitter
Lanterns were released across Belfast to remember Oscar Knox. Pic Twitter
The service for little Oscar Knox was held in St Bernard's Church, Glengormley. The procession started from the NI Children's Hospice and onwards to St Bernard's Church. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Lanterns were released across Belfast to remember Oscar Knox. Pic Twitter
Monday 1st July 2013 - Oscar Knox took over the offices of First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Parliament Buildings
The service for little Oscar Knox was held in St Bernard's Church, Glengormley. The procession started from the NI Children's Hospice and onwards to St Bernard's Church. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Derry City fans pay tribute to Oscar Knox during the team's match against Shamrock Rovers, Friday May 9, 2014
The service for little Oscar Knox was held in St Bernard's Church, Glengormley. The procession started from the NI Children's Hospice and onwards to St Bernard's Church. Pic Declan Roughan/Presseye
The service for little Oscar Knox was held in St Bernard's Church, Glengormley. The procession started from the NI Children's Hospice and onwards to St Bernard's Church. Pic Declan Roughan/Presseye
The service for little Oscar Knox was held in St Bernard's Church, Glengormley. The procession started from the NI Children's Hospice and onwards to St Bernard's Church. Pic Declan Roughan/Presseye
The service for little Oscar Knox was held in St Bernard's Church, Glengormley. The procession started from the NI Children's Hospice and onwards to St Bernard's Church. Pic Declan Roughan/Presseye
The service for little Oscar Knox was held in St Bernard's Church, Glengormley. The procession started from the NI Children's Hospice and onwards to St Bernard's Church. Pic Declan Roughan/Presseye
The service for little Oscar Knox was held in St Bernard's Church, Glengormley. The procession started from the NI Children's Hospice and onwards to St Bernard's Church. Pic Declan Roughan/Presseye
The service for little Oscar Knox was held in St Bernard's Church, Glengormley. The procession started from the NI Children's Hospice and onwards to St Bernard's Church. Pic Declan Roughan/Presseye
Oscar Knox pictured with mum Leona and sister Izzie
The service for little Oscar Knox was held in St Bernard's Church, Glengormley. The procession started from the NI Children's Hospice and onwards to St Bernard's Church. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Sunday Life Spirit Of Northern Ireland overall winner Oscar Knox with Olympic Boxer Paddy Barnes at the awards dinner in the Culloden Hotel Holywood Friday 14th June 2013
Celtic v Cliftonville, Champions League second qualifying round second leg - 23 July 2013. Oscar Knox with Celtic skipper Scott Brown ahead of the Celtic v Cliftonville match
The service for little Oscar Knox was held in St Bernard's Church, Glengormley. The procession started from the NI Children's Hospice and onwards to St Bernard's Church. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Oscar pictured in 2012 with the flag that made him an overnight internet sensation as he was allowed to stay up late to watch that year's European Championship matches
Oscar Knox being held by his mother Leona in hospital. This photo was posted by Oscar's family on October 13, 2012
Former Celtic player John Hartson and Oscar Knox
March 25, 2013 Little Oscar Know steals the show during a 'FEARLESS' press conference at Belfast City Hall. The event has been put together for the night which will feature Irish title fights with all profits going directly to The Oscar Knox Appeal. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
May 1, 2013 - Oscar Knox pictured at New Forge country club with Ulster Rugby's Paddy McAllister
Sunday Life Spirit Of Northern Ireland over-all winner Oscar Knox at the awards dinner in the Culloden Hotel Holywood, Friday 14th June 2013
Oscar Knox's family posted this photo on Twitter last month, saying: "I got back on my feet and walked 20 metres today, everyone was SO proud of me!"
Oscar Knox and his sister, Izzie, surrounded by Easter eggs.
Oscar Knox, celebrating his fourth birthday
Oscar Knox with his father Stephen at Celtic's Parkhead last year
Leona Knox watches as Oscar opens his presents at Christmas 2012
Close family: Oscar with mum Leona, dad Stephen and sister Izzie
Oscar Knox with Celtic skipper Scott Brown during Tuesday evenings Celtic v Cliftonville Champions League, 2nd qualifying round, 2nd leg match at Parkhead, Glasgow Scotland
Oscar blowing the candle out on his birthday cake with dad Stephen
Oscar Knox
Oscar Knox enjoying a day out in the park
Oscar Knox in hospital from Twitter in October, 2012
Little fighter: Oscar Knox
Oscar Knox arrives home from America via air ambulance
Olympic bronze medalists Paddy Barnes (left) and Michael Conlan at the gala ball in aid of Oscar Knox
Oscar Knox
Oscar Knox in Philadelphia
Mum Leona and Oscar
Michael Deane with Oscar Knox
Oscar Knox
Sinn Fein Cllr Tierna Cunningham and Belfast Lord Mayor DUP Gavin Robinson with Oscar
Oscar Knox
Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. Overall Spirit of NI Winner Wee Oscar Knox Presented by, Martin Breen, Tony McGinn and Britain's Got Talent Finalist Jordan O'Keefe
Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. Overall Spirit of NI Winner Wee Oscar Knox Presented by, Martin Breen, Tony McGinn and Britain's Got Talent Finalist Jordan O'Keefe
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 14th June 2013 - Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. Overall Spirit of NI Winner Wee Oscar Knox with his mum Leona
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 14th June 2013 - Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. Julian Simmons, Paddy Barnes & Wee Oscar Knox
Oscar Knox
Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. Overall winner Wee Oscar Knox presented by Martin Breen and Britain's Got Talent Finalist Jordan O'Keefe

They are just 14 words looking out over an ocean of grief, raising profound questions that even the most learned wrestle with.

"I don't want to be a boy anymore. I don't want to be me."

Words from Wee Oscar Knox.

Even typing them brings tears to the eyes. Thinking about them chills the heart.

The news that that the Glengormley boy – battling high-risk neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive childhood cancer, since November 2011 – has been moved to the children's hospice should give us all a pause to reflect.

Oscar's bravery shames us as we go about our petty lives, moaning about that late bus, or that missed promotion. Easter Sunday brought a tweet carrying with it a photo of this wonderful boy and his sister, Izzie, surrounded by Easter eggs. It could be any brother and sister, but then you notice the nasal tube on Oscar's face. This is the ordinary rite of every family, rendered unbearably poignant.

We only think we know about life; but we know much less about it than this five-year-old boy. We can barely comprehend the sufferings of Wee Oscar's parents, Leona and Stephen, who have fought every inch of the way in trying to get help for their child, raising both awareness of neuroblastoma and money to fund treatment. As Leona said in her latest post on her blog, the couple have been "pushed to the limit of what any parent could tolerate in terms of watching their child suffer".

From what place do they get the courage to endure as their child screams in agony while morphine, sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs are administered round the clock? But, of course, we know from where Stephen and Leona find courage: from love and, in the final analysis, from Wee Oscar himself.

Further Reading

Outpouring of support as family pic shows Oscar Knox enjoying Easter  

We hear the word 'love' used in a myriad of forms hundreds of times a day. From banal pronouncements of loving this or that TV programme to cheesy pop songs to some would-be Lothario declaring his endless love for you (babe). But how often to we think of it as this – the most indomitable, formidable force in the world?

And who wouldn't draw strength from Oscar? As Leona reveals, a consultant told her a few weeks ago: "Your son doesn't do giving up." In that sense, he is very much their boy. They may marvel at his courage, but he has drawn it down from them. They don't do giving up, either.

Inspired by them, neither do we. The story of Oscar Knox has brought us all closer together and shown the very best side of us, as a people united, Catholic and Protestant.

We responded to the campaign launched by Stephen and Leona to raise funds to send Oscar to the States for treatment. When Leona won the Belfast Telegraph's Mum of the Year award two years ago, hundreds of people rose to their feet as she made her way to the stage. It was everyone's way of showing we were standing shoulder to shoulder with her family all the way. And the people have kept their promise. They turned up at the City Hall earlier this year to donate blood in Oscar's name. Sports stars like Belfast boxers Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan and Carl Frampton have gone into the ring for the little boy and his family.

The first ministers welcomed Oscar in another natty outfit to Stormont and continue to tweet support. We were all Team Oscar and for a while, too, it seemed we were winning.

We all know there are dark aspects to our character – we saw that on the Springfield Road in Belfast on Good Friday. But the exact opposite of that, its polar extreme, is the cause of Oscar Knox and our allegiance to him, across the divide, across the classes, and, thanks to the much-abused sport of football, across the Old Firm divide in real and moving tribute and support.

There is empathy which responds to courage, a brave spirit and a simple nature which both shames us and comes from us. Oscar has shown us that we can be so much more than our petty nature.

When we think of Oscar – and many are thinking of him and his family at this very minute – we should think of that sunny smile, that cheeky face, that thumb's up from the hospital bed, that brave and simple disposition which has refused to be broken. That grin rebukes us when we think life cheap, or to be met with cynicism.

It's not just our sympathy and our support and our time and our money he deserves. Oscar Knox's cause has made us individually better people and, importantly, a better people as a whole.

For that, more than anything, he deserves our gratitude.

Follow me on Twitter: @GWalker9

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