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'So supportive' Locals rally to help support eight-year-old Mayo girl who has had cancer twice

The campaign will be used for special therapies and supports for Summer, who will need physiotherapy and speech and language therapy as she recovers from the impacts of her diseases and treatments

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Little Summer needs therapies after her double cancer battle.

Little Summer needs therapies after her double cancer battle.

Little Summer needs therapies after her double cancer battle.

The family and friends of a Mayo girl who has had cancer twice have rallied to help support her as she recovers from the impacts of the disease.

Eight-year-old Summer O'Malley-Kearney is one of a tiny number of children who has developed two rare forms of the disease.

Now her community in Castlebar and beyond is backing a campaign to cover the estimated 8,213 kms that Summer will have travelled between the Mayo town and Crumlin children's hospital in Dublin when she completes her treatment.

Several of the county's GAA stars have shared the campaign, called Striving for Summer, on social media. It started yesterday and runs until June 20.

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Summer with her mum Lorraine and her dad Mickey

Summer with her mum Lorraine and her dad Mickey

Summer with her mum Lorraine and her dad Mickey

 

The campaign will be used for special therapies and supports for Summer, who will need physiotherapy and speech and language therapy as she recovers from the impacts of her diseases and treatments.

"We're at the place where Summer deserves the best chance at rehabilitation that she could have," said mum Lorraine. "We have fantastic family and friends that have been so supportive. With Covid these days, there are a lot of waiting lists for children.

"In order for Summer to really get the best chance of rehabilitation, we're choosing to go private to give her the best chance straight away.

"We just want to offer her the best shot that we possibly can. She's been through hell and back for so much of her life. But she continues to fight and all with a smile on her face."

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Summer suffered rare side effects

Summer suffered rare side effects

Summer suffered rare side effects

 

Summer was just eight months old when she was diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH). It started on her skin, causing severe burn-like rashes, but subsequently spread elsewhere in her body, requiring chemotherapy treatment.

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Mum Lorraine and dad Mickey Kearney were stunned when they first learned of the diagnosis.

Summer was tested for meningitis, which was negative, and then sent to Galway for a skin biopsy. "Never in a million years was I expecting the result to be what it was," said Lorraine.

Treatment was challenging and difficult over the following two years but Summer and her family got the breakthrough they badly needed when she was placed on a new trial drug from America thanks to the dedication of her medical team in Crumlin.

"She had this smile on her face and this little light at the back of her eyes that I hadn't seen in so long," said Lorraine.

"It really was a game changer for her. She was so good for the next four years. She recovered. She was getting back to catching up on all of her milestones that she was behind on in terms of walking and talking. She still needed physio and speech and language and all the therapies to help her. And she was all settled for starting primary school. That was a huge, huge day for us as you can imagine, a really emotional day."

But towards the end of 2019 Lorraine became increasingly concerned that something was amiss with her girl, and subsequent investigations showed that she had developed ALL, a form of leukemia. Once again she and her loved ones' lives came crashing down, this time at the start of the global pandemic.

For a child to be diagnosed with LCH and then leukemia is extremely rare - doctors have told her family that Summer is one of just ten children on medical record to have experienced this.

"At the moment she is on what they call the maintenance part of her treatment," said Lorraine. "From March 2020 until September, it was the most intensive part of the treatment. So thankfully, that's behind us. She's at the maintenance stage and that runs until September 2022."

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The little girl was first diagnosed when she was just eight months old

The little girl was first diagnosed when she was just eight months old

The little girl was first diagnosed when she was just eight months old

 

Friends first came to the family with the idea of a fundraiser some time ago, but in recent months they decided they needed the support.

"Unfortunately, in the last few months I noticed that Summer was walking a bit off balance and that her speech was slowing down a bit. Over the last few months, Summer has suffered really rare side effects of some of her chemotherapy drugs that have had a big impact on her neurological health. She is now requiring extensive rehabilitation for many years to come. It's very overwhelming trying to get your head around what's happened."

As well as Summer's care, the family is also supporting three charities they have benefited from: The National Children's Research Centre in Crumlin, Aoibheann's Pink Tie and children's ambulance service Bumbleance.

  • For more information and how you can get involved, search for Striving for Summer on gofundme.

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