Family stepping out for cancer charity that aided Cassie's brain tumour battle
A mother whose young daughter survived a brain tumour is calling on families across Northern Ireland to take part in a sponsored walk to support children with the disease.
Tracey and Kevin McGeehan from Co Tyrone were devastated when 18-month-old Cassie was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive brain tumour in 2010.
"When Cassie was diagnosed with a brain tumour our lives felt like a jigsaw that had been thrown up in the air and came down in a million pieces," said mother-of-four Tracey (42).
Thankfully Cassie, who is now seven, survived after years of gruelling operations, chemo and radiotherapy.
"However, unfortunately life will never be the same for her, even though she has now recovered from her brain tumour," said Tracey, who had to give up her job as a store manager to look after her. "Her growth has been affected, and even though she will be eight in February, she is still the same size as a child in primary one.
"She also gets very tired in the evenings, and still needs an injection every day too. But she takes it all in her stride and is still her usual bubbly self."
Tracey says she does not know how her family would have coped without the support of the Cancer Fund for Children, a charity providing practical, financial and therapeutic support to children and teenagers living with cancer and their families.
"The first contact we had with them was at the hospital with play specialists who are funded by the charity. And because Cassie was only a young baby at the time it was a great relief to have someone there that could interact with her.
"They also gave us a lot of financial advice and support, as well as emotional support."
For Tracey, the most valuable support the charity offered was a family holiday to Daisy Lodge in Newcastle, Co Down, a respite facility.
"It was a proper break away from all that was going on," said Tracey.
"We spent a lot of time together the couple of days we were there.
"We didn't have to cook, clean or anything, and the children would play together like a family and we would go for walks.
"Just to be able to go somewhere was a breath of fresh air - a real escape.
"At the time I didn't even go shopping for fear of picking up some bug and taking it home to her."
On February 25 the family will take part in their fourth Winter Woolly Walk to raise money for the the Cancer Fund for Children.
"We are so thankful that she recovered and are very aware that things could have been a lot different - that's why we try and do all we can to raise awareness of the amazing work that Cancer Fund for Children do," said Tracey.
"We've been doing the Winter Woolly Walk for a few years now, and we all absolutely love it. It's lovely to be able to get out and do something fun that's also great exercise too.
"The reality is you could be helping you or your neighbour. I remember Kevin saying: 'Why Cassie?' And I said to him: 'Why not? What other child would you give it to? You wouldn't give it away to anyone else. She just has to beat it'. And that was what our focus was. And thankfully we had great family, friends and charity behind us."
For more information and to register email: alex@cancerfundfor children.com or call 028 9080 5599