Just a few weeks before last Christmas Joanne found out her 11-year-old son Daniel had a rare cancer in his brain. Daniel became very ill very quickly and spent Christmas in hospital. Cancer rewrote Christmas for the whole family as they struggled to cope with the emotional and financial costs of a cancer diagnosis.
Joanne explains: “You never think in a million years that cancer will happen to your child. It isn't in anybody's life plan.”
Christmas in hospital
Daniel was recovering from eight hours of brain surgery that had left him paralysed on his left side. He had started intensive chemotherapy to try to kill the rare lymphoma in his brain. Daniel was too ill to come home from hospital for Christmas and his family were stressed and worried about him.
“We all wanted to be with Daniel at the hospital on Christmas Day and to make it as special for him as possible, but money was tight."
“Having a child in hospital so far from where you live costs a lot of money in travel, parking and food. And we were struggling to make ends meet.”
As their expenses immediately went up, Joanne and husband Joe began losing £1,300 a month as they took time off work to care for Daniel.
Joanne said: "At one point my husband and I could only afford to eat one meal a day each in the hospital canteen."
The family were supported by CLIC Sargent, which helped to make their Christmas as normal as possible.
“Our CLIC Sargent Social Worker Karen arranged free accommodation for us all nearby to the hospital and awarded a CLIC Sargent grant that meant Daniel's older brother Ben, who he idolises, could travel up from Manchester to be with us over the holidays.
“She even got us vouchers so that we could afford to buy Daniel and his little sister Charlotte some Christmas presents. She thought of everything and arranged for us to have Christmas Dinner together at the hospital too.
“That Christmas, my only wish was for him to survive - Daniel's was for a PlayStation 4!”
After a long stay in hospital, finally in April a scan showed that the cancer had completely gone from Daniel’s brain.
Joanne said: “Daniel still has a long road ahead of him. The surgery left him paralysed on his left side. When he woke up he couldn't smile anymore and had difficulty walking and speaking. He still can't move his eyebrows or eyes on his left side but he's walking and talking now and is starting to get his smile back a little bit.
“Daniel’s face is still partially paralysed but he’s having physiotherapy and speech therapy and we’re all having counselling through the hospital to help us handle the emotional side of things.
“But Daniel has never lost his quirky and cheeky personality though - he’s still the same cheeky little boy.”
Cancer rewrites Christmas
This year, you can change the stories of families like Daniel’s, and donate to CLIC Sargent’s Christmas Appeal.
Together we can make sure they receive the support that they desperately need.