Mary Ellen is our three year old daughter. She brings immeasurable happiness to her parents, Gerard and Bairbre, her brother, Gerard, her sister, Peggy, her grandparents, aunts, uncles and many cousins.
On 7 September 2018, Mary Ellen (then aged 2) was diagnosed with stage 4, high risk, neuroblastoma: a rare childhood cancer of the sympathetic nervous system. We were devastated, but immediately the support of friends, family, the State and society swept in behind her. It is incredible to think that only a year ago, Mary Ellen was trying to fight this disease on her own. The help she has received from all quarters has been, and continues to be, humbling.
Mary Ellen’s tumour was in her abdomen. At diagnosis, her disease had spread widely to her bones and bone marrow. She is being treated by the incredible team at Our Lay’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin. Ellen has undergone multiple rounds of chemotherapy, surgery and two rounds of high dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplants, requiring multiple stays in hospital throughout the year. Mary Ellen’s chemotherapy concluded in early August. The next stage of Mary Ellen’s front line treatment was radiotherapy. Having consulted with the team in Crumlin, we decided to bring Mary Ellen to Westdeutsches Protonentherapiezentrum (“WPE”) in Essen, Germany for proton radiotherapy. Ellen was required to travel to Germany within days of that decision, first for an initial assessment and, a week later, for treatment spanning four weeks. This unforeseen twist was initially daunting.
We contacted the Gavin Glynn Foundation for help. With unquestioning kindness, John Glynn of the Gavin Glynn Foundation took care of all the complicated logistics involved in travelling to Germany with our family, arranging our flights, accommodation and transfers. In addition to obvious empathy, kindness and generosity, John displayed a deft sensitivity, always being quietly available to, and supportive of, our family. Ellen’s time in Essen, which was initially daunting is turning out to be almost pleasant as a result of this support. The Gavin Glynn Foundation team booked all our travel and, for the duration of Mary Ellen’s treatment, arranged a beautiful apartment in Essen, in a lovely location, close to WPE and the famous Gruga Park.
Since arriving in Essen, John has continued to support our family, by checking in with us regularly, arranging a visit from Mary Ellen’s siblings, and re-arranging our travel and accommodation when her treatment at the WPE took longer than originally planned. Meanwhile, Ellen has enjoyed exploring Germany and sharing the experience with Gerard and Peggy.
The support of the Gavin Glynn Foundation drastically reduced the intense stress and anxiety involved in relocating to Germany for treatment at short notice. A whole range of complex practicalities were taken off our plate entirely, so that we could focus on Ellen’s care and treatment and on supporting her siblings during her absence. Throughout the experience, John has been incredibly kind and supportive; we are eternally grateful to him and his team.