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Family of girl with rare cancer appeal for help to raise £120,000 to send her to US for treatment

by DONNA DEENEY

The mother of a brave four-year-old girl with a rare form of childhood cancer has appealed for help to raise more than £120,000 for her daughter's specialist treatment in the US.

Little Merryn Lacy was diagnosed last August with Stage four neuroblastoma and has just completed a gruelling 12 weeks of chemotherapy.

Her family, who are from Londonderry, hope this will be enough to enable Merryn to travel to America for a pioneering treatment.

But before this can happen, the family must raise a six-figure sum – and have embarked on a relentless fundraising campaign.

Among those who have lent their support is Olympic gold medal winner, boxer Katie Taylor.

"Katie has generously donated her Olympic torch, so we can auction that.

"We have been so touched by the efforts people are going to for Merryn here in Derry," said mum Jenny.

"The fundraising we are doing has meant we have had to open our lives to the public, with all the different appearances and media interviews, as well as the updates on Facebook.

"It is all very alien to my husband Michael and me, but Merryn is enjoying it incredibly well.

"Although we wanted to raise funds and raise awareness of neuroblastoma, we wanted people to see Merryn as more than someone who is a very sick wee girl, but she is doing that for us.

"She has maintained her dynamic personality through everything and while I was so nervous about a TV3 appearance, Merryn was calm and relaxed, so much so that she whipped her wig off on national TV.

"We try and make things fun for her, even though we are still highlighting the condition in Ireland and raising funds for her treatment.

"We have already had a day meeting the Irish rugby team, we will meet the Irish football team this week; Ger Lyons, the renowned horse trainer, has helped too by naming a young filly after Merryn, which will be running during this year's flat race season called Merryn Moo."

Neuroblastoma is a rare but aggressive form of childhood cancer, and recently came to prominence after another child from Northern Ireland, Oscar Knox, embarked on a fundraising and awareness campaign. 'Wee Oscar' captured the hearts of many, with his courage in the face of adversity.

Jenny said alarm bells first went off when Merryn began to experience bouts of extreme tiredness and to complain about pains in her tummy.

The worried mother hoped that tests would show nothing untoward, but her instincts told her to prepare for something more serious.

Her worst fears were confirmed when the results showed that Merryn had a tumour on her kidney and so began a seemingly endless series of hospital appointments and chemotherapy sessions.

Although Jenny is originally from Derry, she now lives in Dublin with husband Michael and Merryn's' sister, Cory (3). However, her native city in Northern Ireland has been pulling out all the stops.

Already, a coffee morning held in the Stewart Memorial Hall netted an incredible £3,500 and a concert tomorrow night in Lisneal College has sold out.

"Neuroblastoma is such a rare cancer and unfortunately the only place that seems to be doing research on it is in America, where there are trials of a drug called DFMO, which is a blocker treatment," said Jenny.

"It is only a trial but to date, no child that has been on that trial has relapsed which is why we are so desperate to raise the funds.

"Any parent will do whatever they have to so that they give their child the best possible chance and unfortunately this is the path that we find ourselves on. Our daughter's best chance for a future lies in this treatment and although we know we have a long hard road ahead of us, we know too that with people's help, we will get there."

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