“My little girl Ruby was two and a half when she vomited up her bottle of milk one morning. I took her to the GP and we thought it was a viral infection. She didn’t get any better after a couple of days so I took her to the Dub Doc at the weekend. I thought there was something wrong with her because she just wasn’t herself - even her eyes looked dull. Ruby has big brown eyes and I knew they were off. The doctor examined her and sent us to Crumlin Hospital with suspected meningitis. They did a urine test and found she didn’t have meningitis. Ruby had started complaining of a pain in her head at this point, but that can be part of having a virus. We went home and after three days of staying in the house I picked her up off the couch and she started having a seizure. Her whole body was shaking. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she was unresponsive. I panicked so much. It was terrifying. We called an ambulance and rushed into Crumlin.
The next morning Ruby was still complaining about the pain in her head. She’s incredible at expressing and explaining herself, for someone so young. We were blessed that she’s so vocal and could say that there was still a huge pain in her head. She would say ‘Mammy, there’s an ouchy in my head!’ She was taken for a CT scan and that’s when they told me the worst news I have ever heard: my little girl had a brain tumour.
On the 14th of February, Valentine’s Day, she went for surgery, in Temple Street Hospital, the national paediatric centre for neurosurgery, to get the tumour removed. She was in surgery for more than 8 hours. Ruby was such a tiny little thing - only two and a half and enduring such an enormous surgery. When it was finished the team said they believed they had removed the entire tumour, but would need to do a MRI 24 hours later to confirm this. I had the best news of my whole life when they sat down and told me they had removed the entire tumour - the greatest Valentine’s gift anyone could ever get!
After the surgery, Ruby had to learn how to walk again, sit up again, everything. I brought her home for a couple of days after surgery before we returned to Crumlin Hospital to start chemotherapy. Ruby had her Hickman line put in her chest and we did about seven months of chemo. Even though the tumour had been entirely removed and Ruby was cancer free, because it was a grade four tumour she needed to follow through with the plan to complete her chemotherapy course. She used to have five days of chemo and then a break. With her immune system so low we really didn’t get to spend much time at home. I would bring her home and we were lucky if we got to spend five days there. The minute it seemed like she was getting sick we had to go back to the hospital before it escalated. We lived in Crumlin for seven months. Ruby is the toughest little girl and I’m so proud of her.
We brought her home after she completed chemo and got her first scan after all her treatment. It was clear. Every scan she’s had since then has been clear. It was such a terrible year for Ruby but she fought her way through it. The amount of family and friends that prayed for her and supported us was incredible. She’s got scars from her journey, but if you met her you’d never know what she’s been through. She’s a little trooper!
It’s a very hard and lonely place to be when you’re looking at your sick child. It’s soul-destroying. Every time a doctor took her away all I wanted was to take her back because I couldn’t breathe without her. When people go out and do something big or small to support the hospital and its research, it makes a huge difference for people like me and Ruby. If I could say one thing to the incredible fundraisers it would simply be ‘thank you’. I don’t think you can say thank you enough. It means everything to feel that support throughout such a difficult experience.
Ruby goes for scans every four months now. Her consultant takes such good care of us. The best thing I ever heard in my life was that the brain tumour was gone and Ruby was in the clear. People worry about silly things. We all do it. It’s only when you’re faced with a situation like this that you forget everything else. The only thing that matters in the world is making sure your child gets well. I hope she lives a long and healthy life. I don’t care what she wants to be when she grows up. I just want her to be healthy and happy. That’s all that matters. At the moment she’s thinking of being an astronaut when she’s older, so we’ll see how that goes!”
- Yvonne, Ruby's mum.