'I'd rather lose my hand if it means I can see my kids grow up', says mum
A determined mum who fund-raised to help her son complete his bucket list before he went blind is now fighting her own battle against an extremely rare type of cancer.
Florist Carol Haslam (37) is facing at least partial amputation of her left hand in the coming month after chemotherapy treatment proved unsuccessful in shrinking a synovial sarcoma, first diagnosed just last April.
The brave mum, from Rat-oath, Co Meath, said she would rather lose her hand to get rid of the cancer for good so she could see her two children, Daniel (9) and Niamh (11), grow up.
Carol's efforts to help Daniel see his bucket list of the world's architectural sites before he lost his sight tugged at the nation's heartstrings in 2015.
Since then, Daniel, who was diagnosed with optical atrophy, has ticked most places off the list. Unfortunately, a trip to see the Eiffel Tower had to be postponed due to Carol starting her chemotherapy.
Carol maintains a positive outlook and actually laughs that she was more likely to win the Lottery than be afflicted with her form of cancer.
"It only happens to between one and three people in every million and I'm the one," she said.
"You've a better chance of winning the Lottery. It's extraordinarily rare."
Sarcoma is a rare form of cancer, which occurs in the connective tissue of the body, such as fat, skin tissue and nerves. Synovial sarcoma is an extremely rare type, found in the extremities of the arms and legs.
"My hand started hurting around Christmas and so I went to my GP and a subsequent x-ray revealed nothing," Carol recalled.
"I had carpal tunnel surgery before so I requested to see the same hand specialist and got an appointment for March.
"I was sent for an MRI and follow-up appointments were made very quickly. But I still wasn't thinking anything of it because like, who gets hand cancer?" she laughed.
"I was told I had a sarcoma just two days before Dan's planned trip to the Grand Canyon but the doctors said to keep our plans as it would take a few weeks to get a team of medical experts in place.
"It wasn't the happiest of holidays but I wasn't going to let it ruin it either."
When she got home, she was told that as there was blood supply to two of her fingers, she may not need a full amputation.
"My husband Kev nearly passed out but I processed it and dealt with it. It's not the worst news I've ever had," she said.
Carol took control of the situation before the chemotherapy and had her hair cut short and donated it to the Rapunzel Foundation.
"It was still a shock though when I went into the shower and the whole lot of what was left fell off in one go," she added.
Her three months of chemotherapy finished two weeks ago and Carol faced the news that her tumour had grown.
However, still remaining upbeat, she said: "I'll have to get an operation and they don't know yet whether I'll lose all or part of my hand.
"This type of cancer is so aggressive and recurs in the same spot so I don't care how much of my hand they take.
"I just want the cancer gone so I can see my two children grow up."
Carol has some better knows about Daniel, though.
"He went to the specialist who is pretty sure Daniel has a form of Wolfram syndrome, which means he won't go completely blind," she said.
"Dan is blind in one eye and almost the same in the other but this means he'll have some form of vision, however slight."
Carol is urging everyone to get their lumps and bumps checked. Further information on sarcoma can be found at facebook.com/sarcomaactionsupportgroup/