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Callum's relapse had us running on empty but Cancer Fund for Children has been real boon, says mum

By Victoria O'Hara

The mother of a little boy battling cancer who had gone into remission has spoken of how they were told the devastating news the disease had returned.

Mary Theresa Boyd's eight-year-old son Callum caught a cold that would not go away in 2010.

In January 2011 he was sent for tests by his doctor and the family were given the diagnosis that he had leukaemia.

After undergoing three-and-a-half years of gruelling chemotherapy, as well as taking a variety of drugs and steroids, Callum was given the all-clear.

But his family suffered a fresh blow this March when they were told the cancer had returned.

Mary Theresa, from Portglenone, who was supported by Cancer Fund for Children at a time when the family were "running on empty", is now urging people to support its festive campaign and get 'All Wrapped Up' this Christmas to help others going through the same experience.

"The first time Callum was diagnosed it was awful - the end of the world," she said.

"At the time all I can remember feeling was pure panic, fear and worry."

Mary Theresa said it was "daunting" being taken into a corridor and a hospital ward they had never been on before. "When you hear the word cancer, you automatically think the worst," she added.

"It was very worrying for quite a few weeks at the start until we got our heads around it."

On one of his regular check-ups, Callum's parents were told that he had an ear infection and would need to stay over, as his blood counts were not 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 Cancer Fund for Children works on hospital wards and in the community, supporting youngsters and giving them the chance to have fun together, to feel less isolated and to help them work through their feelings.

Cancer Fund for Children specialist Sara Kieran provided the Boyds with one-to-one support throughout Callum's treatment.

Mary Theresa said that the help meant the family "knew it wasn't the end".

"It's easy to talk to family, but at the same time you don't want to burden them," she said. "It was good to talk to somebody neutral. Sara also visited Callum in hospital.

"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."

Cancer Fund for Children director of services Liz Osborne said Christmas could be one of the toughest times of the year for families such as the Boyds.

"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," Ms Osborne said.

For more information about All Wrapped Up, visit

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