Being told that your child has cancer is every parent’s worst nightmare. But 13 years ago, one of our press officers, Jane Redman, received terrible news – her daughter Amy was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Here, Jane shares her family’s story – and her vision for the future of childhood cancer research.
Many of us will have read the recent distressing story of Sally Roberts – the mother who went into hiding with her son rather than put him through radiotherapy to his brain and spine to treat a brain tumour. Terrified of the potential side effects of the radiation, she simply ran away. Her son is now having treatment after a legal battle.
The press and social media have been awash with discussion about her refusal to consent to what experts know is her child’s only chance of life. The medical consensus is that without radiotherapy his cancer would be more likely to recur and he would die.
But only those parents who have been in the same position can really understand how hard these decisions are, how brutal the treatment, and how high the costs can sometimes be.
My own daughter Amy had exactly the same type of brain tumour, a medulloblastoma, when she was nine. She had surgery followed by radiotherapy and we still have her; she is 22 now.
While we never seriously entertained the notion of not signing the consent forms for Amy’s treatment, I’m not going to pretend that it was an easy decision. When the crucial moment came to sign, my husband had to pick up the pen because I was paralysed with fear. Did I ever feel like running away? Yes, I fantasised about it daily. Did I ever regret having agreed to treatment? There was a time, yes. I don’t regret it now, but she was so severely disabled initially that I felt we had sentenced her to a non-life out of desperation not to lose her.