Wednesday 20 March 2019

Brave Robyn (13) flies out for crucial cancer treatment in New York

Robyn and mum Bernadette
Robyn and mum Bernadette

A teenager who has become the first Irish person chosen for a groundbreaking cancer treatment trial flew out yesterday to meet doctors in New York.

Robyn Smyth (13) has been fighting the aggressive cancer neuroblastoma since she was three.

She first went for treatment to a hospital in Michigan in 2015 when Irish doctors said there was nothing more they could do for her.

After two good scans at the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital several months ago, she was accepted for the trial at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York.

Robyn and mum Bernadette Dornan Smyth, from Whitehall, Dublin, caught an early morning flight yesterday.

"We can't believe we're actually going and at last we're getting on this dreamed-for flight," said Bernadette.

"It's been a battle financially, but this treatment will mean so much for Robyn's health.

"I'm so nervous travelling out here, more than ever, but also so relieved.

"I can't thank the public enough for all their financial help, which we are always going to need.

"The next few days out here will be intense, but it has to be that way."

Bernadette had feared the worst when the fundraising effort to collect the €326,000 needed for Robyn to take part in the trial stalled at €70,000.

As they waited, Robyn's health was deteriorating, raising fears that she would become too unwell to have the treatment.

The family had already worked tirelessly to raise vast sums for her previous treatment in Michigan.

Then an emotional outpouring by a desperately worried Bernadette spurred a new wave of donations.


Erin McGregor, the sister of UFC king Conor, who had already been secretly helping Robyn, started a floss dance challenge to boost the cause, which won support from several celebrities.

After the fund reached the target, Bernadette spoke of the family's gratitude.

"We reached the magic mark of having enough money to pay for the groundbreaking trial treatment over the weekend. All of the family can't put into words how grateful and relieved we are," she said.

"My head was spinning at the thought of getting Robyn this far and not being able to get her on the trial that could potentially put an end to this monster."

However, Bernadette warned that they still needed to raise more money to meet ongoing costs.

"We're all so relieved, but worried too," she said. "After we make the up-front payment to the hospital, then there will be no money left.

"So I'm pleading with people to keep donating as there will be non-stop flight and living costs while in the US."

Robyn was given only a 30pc chance of surviving when she was first diagnosed by experts at Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin.

Three years ago her chances of survival dropped to 5pc and her family were told to take her home to die, prompting them to seek help in the US.

Donations can be made on robynslife@live.com, idonate.ie/robynslife and gofundme.com/robynslife.

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