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Mum Alison heaps praise on children's cancer charity as little Ollie Bell (6) battles leukaemia

A mum whose six-year-old son who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia is encouraging others to support the charity that was there for her family when their world was turned upside down.

Alison Bell, from Newtownabbey, is sharing her son Ollie's story as part of Cancer Fund for Children's Christmas appeal, to encourage local people to do whatever they can to support children whose lives have been devastated by cancer.

Alison said the day she was told Ollie had cancer was just the beginning of the nightmare.

"Just over a year ago, on October 18 2016, I went to wake my five-year-old son Ollie to get ready for school, just like any other day. But Ollie complained that he couldn't put his foot on the floor to get up.

"He was obviously in a lot of pain and crying so I took him to Antrim Hospital to get an X-ray. As I made the journey I was becoming increasingly worried as he had been at the doctors with a rash the week before and had been losing a lot of weight recently and looking pale."

The doctors then asked to speak to Alison alone, this is when she knew something was wrong.

"I can remember the words so clearly. 'It's not good news - your son has leukaemia.' I had to compose myself before they brought Ollie into the room with me. From there we were transferred to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children where we stayed for the next five weeks for intensive treatments.

"It's the stuff of nightmares but throughout his treatment Ollie just got on with it and fought. He celebrated his sixth on the ward and we managed to have a little party for him which we fitted in and around his chemotherapy on the day."

The next stages of Ollie's treatment were a mixture of inpatient and outpatient treatments which were really challenging for him.

Although Ollie and his family had the freedom of not being in hospital, the isolation proved very difficult on the six-year-old.

He wasn't allowed to leave his home because of the risk of infection. He missed his school and friends.

It was whilst Ollie was in hospital that he was referred to Cancer Fund for Children for support. The charity have a team of Community Specialists who provide support to children with cancer and their families either at home, in hospital or in their own community.

Cancer Fund for Children provide practical, financial and therapeutic support to children, teenagers and young adults living with cancer, and their families.

Alison commented: "“Our Cancer Fund for Children Specialist Gemma was absolutely amazing and a godsend to both Ollie and to me.

"Gemma built up such a caring relationship with both of us to help us through what has been a very difficult time.  Through the dark days of intensive treatment when we were restricted to the house, her visits would be the highlight of our day. 

"She would use ‘talking through play’ with Ollie to work through any worries he had and always knew at what point to suggest a therapeutic short break for us at Cancer Fund for Children’s short break centre, Daisy Lodge, if things were getting too much.

“She also helped arrange for us to receive the charity’s financial grants.”

Ollie now has a year of treatment over him and has started a phase of less intensive treatment. He recently returned to school for the first time since his diagnosis.

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Alison, who is currently preparing to trek the Grand Canyon in 2018 to give back to the charity that was there for her and her son, added:

“I honestly don’t know where I would be today with the support of Cancer Fund for Children.  That is one of the reasons why I’m taking part in a trek – to raise funds for a charity that has helped us on our journey and has a special place in my heart!”

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