by Nick Bramhill
A Co. Wicklow mum’s desperate bid to secure life-saving cancer treatment in the US for her young daughter has been given a massive boost – thanks to the child’s golden-hearted older sister and hundreds of her school pals.
Alice Hayes, nine, is fighting stage 4 neuroblastoma, a high-risk and aggressive cancer of the nerve cells that comes with high relapse rates and low survival rates.
The youngster’s parents, Norah and Dylan, have faced a daunting race against time to raise €550,000 before Christmas to guarantee her life-saving medical treatment at the world-renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (stet) in New York.
Mum Norah said both her and 47-year-old husband Dylan’s lives have been turned upside-down since Alice’s diagnosis back in April this year.
But they are optimistic their courageous daughter can beat the odds and make a full recovery, if she is enrolled on the New York clinical trial – a non-HSE-funded treatment plan which requires full payment before Christmas to secure enrolment in the next available group.
And now, following a huge community fundraising effort in the garden county over the weekend by 500 secondary school students, including Alice’s older sister, Laragh, the daunting fundraising target is finally in sight.
More than €62,000 was raised as 13-year-old Laragh led hundreds of school pals from Loreto Abbey Dalkey on a 19km sponsored walk from Wicklow town to Greystones on Saturday.
Norah, 47, who’s originally from Greystones, said that she was “blown away” by the collective effort, which has helped her raise over €450,000 in just six weeks.
And with less than €100,000 needed to reach the target, the mother-of-two said she now “feels certain” she will achieve her goal of securing a place for Alice on the three-year treatment programme in a matter of weeks.
Speaking from Barcelona – where Alice is currently receiving specialist treatment following six months of gruelling chemotherapy at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin – Norah said: “I can’t put into words how grateful we are to everybody. There are fundraising efforts going on everywhere. People have just taken Alice to their hearts, and it’s given us a huge lift.
“Things have been extremely tough since Alice was diagnosed, but she has been brilliant throughout all this. She’s the most wonderful child, and we will do everything we can to get her on this trial, as any parent would.
“It’s been very hard for my older daughter, Laragh. She’s the kindest person you could ever meet, and all she wants is to see her sister get better. Thanks to her efforts and all the other girls at Loreto and everyone else who was involved, we are now very close to being able to secure a place for Alice on the clinical trial.”
Norah also said she hopes to reunite her daughters at their Blackrock, Co. Dublin home later next month for a much longed-for family Christmas.
She added: “The doctors here in Barcelona are liaising very closely with the ones in New York, and she will be evaluated before she’s put on the clinical trial. But the first step is to have the funds in place, and thanks to all the overwhelming support we’re receiving, I know we’re going to get Alice there.”
To donate to Alice’s fund, go to www.gofundme.com/f/help-alice-beat-cancer-fund