Karagh Cahill is teething like mad, chewing on a chilled teething ring in between smiles.
“She prefers her hands to chew on,” smiles her mum Sarah, 22, who is still on maternity leave from the Heritage, Killenard.
She has just begun trying Karagh on solids, but a plan to move her into her own room is on hold. Helping your first born through all the milestones is daunting enough, but Sarah and her partner Keith, 23, are facing a challenge that is every parent’s worst nightmare.
Karagh was born in Portlaoise last August after a perfect healthy pregnancy. At three weeks old she got constipated and developed a lump on the side of her tummy. She ended up in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, where her parents were told she had a popped muscle from straining to poo. Her tummy was ‘washed out’ and all was fine again, the family went back home to Station Court in Portarlington and settled into a routine.
That November, while winding 12 weeks old Karagh, Sarah felt a new lump, on the left side of her back. Karagh had also gone off her feeds, and had begun crying hysterically a lot. They went to Portlaoise hospital, where Dr Daly decided to keep Karagh overnight and run tests. Unsatisfied with the results, she transferred Karagh to Crumlin where her frustrated parents were told it wasn’t constipation. They returned to Portlaoise hospital, where Dr Daly did a CT scan and a urine sample. She then told them there was a mass on Karagh’s spine.
“We didn’t know what that meant but the look on my mam’s face told me it was serious. You can’t prepare for that kind of news, it felt like we were hit by a bus,” said Sarah.
They waited for two days in Portlaoise until a cot became available for Karagh in Crumlin.
“We went straight away, with an envelope in tow containing all Karagh’s scans and results. On the way up I had myself convinced everything would be ok. We got there and a paediatric oncology doctor came to see us straight away. I gave him the envelope and he left. He returned to us within five minutes and confirmed that the tumor was cancerous,” Sarah said.
Karagh was diagnosed with stage 3 neuroblastoma, an extremely rare children’s cancer, with less than 700 cases worldwide. The survival rate is 30 per cent, depending on how soon it is treated. Sarah searched online but could find no one in Ireland writing about it, and no Irish support group.
She began a heartfelt online blog and a facebook page for Karagh, which has already built up over 1,000 supporters. A website is in the planning too.
While dealing day to day with raising Karagh, and helping her battle her cancer, Sarah and Keith have become experts on the disease, and they have now begun steps to form a trust fund online, to raise money for neuroblastoma research in Ireland. So little is known about it that there is no specific form of chemotherapy treatment, so Karagh is currently receiving two types of adult chemotherapy.
READ THE REST OF KARAGH’S STORY IN THIS WEEK’S OFFALY EXPRESS
See www.sarah-mcauley.blogspot.com. or look for The Karagh Mouse Clubhouse on facebook.