A little girl who endured gruelling cancer treatment got to ring a bell to celebrate the end of chemo at home after medics sent it in the post.
Dara Monahan, now aged eight, was diagnosed in May 2019 with rare low-grade brain stem glioma after suffering from a recurring cough and suspected sleep apnoea.
In June 2019 she began chemotherapy, and mum Sarah, 39, got the family to watch YouTube videos to explain what would happen to Dara.
Mum-of-three Sarah gave up work as a paralegal while her middle child underwent cancer treatment at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow.
By the time Dara’s treatment ended in February 2021, lockdown meant there was no chance to celebrate in hospital due to Covid restrictions.
But medics sent Dara a bell she could ring to celebrate and a t-shirt, so she could have a party with brothers Riley, 13 and Ciaran, five, in Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire.
The family had to shield during the pandemic.
Sarah said: “It was a big shock, it felt like everything in our life just disappeared.
“We were terrified, because at the start they told us she might die, but you are doing your best because you don’t want her or her brothers to be scared.
“You don’t have a choice – you have to just get on with things.”
Dara loved being in the children’s ward where she knew all the nurses.
Her mum added: “It really helped her in the ward.
“She was always really happy and tolerated her treatment really well, skipping up and down the wards – all the nurses loved her.
“She just got on with it.
“Throughout it all the staff have been just brilliant, everyone knows Dara by name and they all make you feel so welcome.
“It just makes a stressful situation so much easier.”
Dara’s tumour has shrunk but there is no clear prognosis and she will need to be monitored every three months.
The family try not to think about the future and enjoy what they have.
Sarah, who has returned to work now the chemo has finished, said: “The team posted out the bell and a little t-shirt.
“We had a tea party and balloons and made a big deal of it and she was really happy with that.
“She was really delighted to be getting to the end of treatment and getting her line removed.
“She was really looking forward to being able to have a bath and go for a swim – starting to feel more normal.
“We still have a lot of fear for the future – it’s still there.
“I’m hopeful that she will be fine and be okay, but we try not to dwell on it.
“We have what we have just now.
“I think if you dwell on the ‘what ifs’, you can miss out on a lot of life that’s happening now.”
Jamie Redfern, director of Women and Children’s Service at NHSGGC, added: “We’re delighted that Dara and her family have been able to ring the bell at home as they mark the end of one part of their cancer journey.
“It’s often such an emotional moment and in the hospital environment it is something that brings tears, smiles and usually hugs with families, children and the doctors, nurses and teams who support them.
“With the Covid restrictions we’ve not been able to do that within the ward, but we are delighted that bells have gone to families to recreate the experience at home.
“Throughout Covid, we’ve been working incredibly hard to look after all of our patients with cancer and while, for some, ringing the bell doesn’t mean the end of treatment, it is a mark of hope for what lies ahead.”
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