herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Temp Head

I'm one of the 21,000 campers who've experienced the "magic of Barretstown". It played a vital role in my recovery from childhood cancer and Barretstown's formula of therapeutic recreation helped me hold on to my childhood.

Back in August 2000, when I was seven years old, my family was given the devastating news that I had a cancer of the blood known as acute myeloid leukaemia.

At the beginning, I had no idea what all the commotion was about. I just knew that I was very sick. I still have vivid memories of gruelling chemotherapies, trips to theatre, drips and blood transfusions. Over the course of my initial six-month treatment regime at St John's ward in Crumlin, I was exposed to some of the things that no seven-year-old should ever have to go through.

In January 2001, my cancer was in remission but we were told that there was a possibility that it could return. We tried to return to normal life -- my mum and dad threw a big party to celebrate the end of my treatment. They also thought that a trip to Disneyland was in order. Around this time, my doctor also recommended a trip to Barretstown.

My family was a bit nervous as my hair was growing back and they were afraid that this "Barretstown place" would reawaken my experiences of being sick.

However, nothing could have been further from the truth, and from the moment we arrived in Barretstown we were surrounded by happy smiling faces. We were challenged to experience all the fun for which the camp is famous.

We canoed, did horse-riding, recovered the kidnapped Easter Bunny, sang, danced and laughed in a way we hadn't done in nine months. My younger sister, who was just five at the time, remembers that as a time in her life when everything was unsure and Barretstown made her feel safe.

My cancer returned soon after. My best chance of survival was a bone marrow transplant and I was lucky in that my younger sister was a perfect match so we were back in hospital for more chemo and radiotherapy.

I had my transplant in August 2001 and we attended our second family camp in Barretstown eight months later -- and the magic just continued to grow.

Life is great now. I'm fighting fit and in my second year in Marino Institute of Education, where I am studying to become a primary school teacher.

I have done a Barretstown Leaders programme, which aims to equip former campers with the skills and qualities to work in a place like Barretstown. I look forward to recreating the magic of Barretstown for campers in the coming years and my aim now is to raise as much money as possible for the children at Barretstown.

If you would like to run for Barretstown, contact fundraising@barretstown.org.

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