By Adele Ramet, Grandparent
Adele is a grandparent who regularly cares for her grandchild – she has a message to share with you all.
I was so excited! I’d never seen a scan of a baby before and the image on the screen was crystal clear. We were going to have a granddaughter at last. Fast forward five years, we wait anxiously while our little girl has a very different type of scan. The latest in what has become her routine since being diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of two.
Our role as grandparents changed significantly on that awful day. I had always taken the view that grandmothers, not children, should be seen and not heard. I’d tried to stick to this rule for our two grandsons, so when I discovered our little granddaughter was bumping into the furniture, I didn’t say, “Isn’t that one of the symptoms of a brain tumour?” Yes, she was much slower than her brother to talk and no, she didn’t run around much, preferring to sit and be cuddled most of the time but the GP didn’t seem too worried, so rather than frighten her parents, I kept silent.
Even when the vomiting started, I said nothing, clinging onto the hope that the doctors and specialists really weren’t missing the obvious. Sadly, they were and it took a relief hospital specialist to finally recognise the symptoms. Within 36 hours, our precious granddaughter was undergoing a six hour operation to remove a malignant tumour. She has Medulla Blastoma, an aggressive form of cancer for which the survival odds at her age are between 30 and 50 per-cent. We live around an hour’s drive away from our daughter and those first dark days and weeks were spent alternating between hospital visits and doing what we could to support our son-in-law and grandson. Their other Grandma lives close by them so between us we sorted out school runs and sleepovers for our, then four year old, grandson. We cleaned their house, cooked large batches of meals for microwaving at hospital and home and sat with our grandson whilst his parents were at the hospital.
It’s hard to describe how it feels to try and give one beloved grandchild fun and reassurance when you know that the other is fighting for her life. Somehow, you just do it. Eventually, she came home to a house as sterile as we could get it before the first round of chemotherapy began. For some reason, our granddaughter’s hair had never grown much at all, so when it fell out, the difference wasn’t too bad. Although she proved to be amazingly resilient, lack of immunity was always a problem and she was constantly in and out of the local children’s cancer unit, fighting off yet another infection. Radiotherapy and further chemotherapy have taken their toll. Along with a severe squint and partial sight in one eye there is also permanent hearing loss.
We are on constant standby in readiness for emergency calls but there is little we can do to take the daily strain from our daughter’s shoulders. Our overwhelming emotion has always been one of helplessness but throughout all the scares and worry, our grandchildren have been inspirational.
Our granddaughter, ably assisted by her wonderfully supportive big brother, recently celebrated her fifth birthday with a fabulous fairy party. She has grown into a lively, happy, bright little girl who takes great delight in running her grandparents ragged. At present, she looks set to reach the crucial five year point when the survival odds should increase in her favour. Meanwhile, as we wait for the results of this latest scan, my advice to other grandparents is to speak out if you feel something is wrong. Your intervention could just save a child’s life.
Adele is part of the Facebook support group: Grandparents of Cancer Kids: It’s our journey too.
You can read her blog here.