Belfast Telegraph

Family's pride in Naomi (17), who can now look to brighter future after gruelling cancer battle

By Cate McCurry

Most youngsters celebrate their 11th birthday surrounded by friends and family - but for one little Fermanagh girl, her birthday marked the beginning of a long battle with cancer.

At the tender age of 10, Naomi Crawford's parents broke the devastating news that she had anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, an aggressive cancer that would leave her in isolation for six months while undergoing severe treatment.

Her mother Donella Meade, from Lisbellaw, has spoken of the years spent in the "depths of Hell" and how she faced her daughter's agonising questions of whether she would die from the disease.

The family, including her three sisters and dad Peter Meade, faced a long, tough battle, but now 17-year-old Naomi is in remission and hoping for the all-clear on her 18th birthday next April.

Looking back to that moment of the diagnosis, her mum explained: "It was myself, my husband and our minister who were there, because Naomi was too sick to go. I don't remember much about that day, it was like I was hit with a tonne of bricks.

"I was physically sick and cried as I went home. We told her about the cancer and that she was going to lose her hair and there was a possibility she couldn't have children.

"She then asked if she was going to die, but we told her she would die an old lady in bed surrounded by her family.

"She hated her treatment because it was so severe on her and she wanted it to stop a few times, but she was a credit to us, the way she handled it."

Naomi was home-schooled and spent a lot of time in and out of hospital and away from her sisters, Lindsey, Jemma and Jodie.

She was only able to socialise with friends and peers she met through the Cancer Fund for Children, and despite her efforts to take part in typical teenage activities, it often left her tired and weak.

"We were in the depths of Hell, that complete helplessness and terror and always living in fear because you don't know if the treatment is working. We were constantly waiting on test results, it was horrendous and the worst time of my life," added Donella.

"But over the two years she slowly got stronger, her confidence, self-esteem and social skills started to grow and she blossomed in front of us and into a lovely young lady. I look at her in awe."

Naomi is now studying ICT and hopes to become a medic in the Army so she can help others.

The teen is also campaigning to raise funds for the Cancer Fund for Children, which helped her during her tough battle. Speaking about her terrifying experience, Naomi explained how the charity helped her: "When I was sick, my mum and I were in Belfast at the hospital all of the time, we were never in the house. I stayed over in the charity's Narnia log cabin for residentials, which helped a lot with my confidence and self-esteem.

"I was able to spend time with other young people who were in the same boat and ask them personal questions I didn't want to ask the doctors. Everyone just understands what you're going through."

She is urging people to take part in the Cash for Kids Funsie in a Onesie campaign, to help raise funds for the Cancer Fund for Children to support other families affected by cancer.

Funsie in a Onesie takes place next week and you can register now at


The Cancer Fund for Children works with around 459 families and 883 children and young people at any one time, giving practical, emotional and financial support plus free therapeutic short breaks for the family at Daisy Lodge in Newcastle, Co Down. Anyone can take part in Funsie in a Onesie, which kicks off on Monday (October 19). Campaigners are urging everyone to get involved.

Belfast Telegraph


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