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Corinne Reddington
How we felt when our son was ill
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Thursday, 9 March, 2000, 12:43 GMT
Leukaemia: a parent's story

'The drug was so poisonous that nurses wore gloves'
When a child has cancer, the parents suffer with them every step of the way.

Feelings of guilt, helplessness and despair are common.

One parent, Corinne Reddington, from Bristol, whose seven-year-old son was diagnosed with Leukaemia, talks to BBC News Online about how the experience changed her family.

Sam Reddington had all the classic symptoms of leukaemia- tiredness, vulnerability to minor infections, and unexplained bruise-like marks on his body.

My husband and I were absolutely devastated. Your whole world falls apart.

Corinne Reddington
Corinne said: "He had no energy for anything, and he did seem to catch one infection after another so I was continually taking him to the doctors.

"He came out in bruises all over his leg which we thought was very strange.

"To us, leukaemia or cancer was something that happened to somebody else."

"I could tell by the doctor's face that she knew what it was. I thought it was perhaps glandular fever, but she said, no, could you take him to hospital now."

The diagnosis was reached by 9pm the same day.

"My husband and I were absolutely devastated. Your whole world falls apart," said Corinne.

"You've got all this guilt as well, because you're thinking: 'How did he get it? Did we do something wrong?'

The cancer was to be treated using chemotherapy - drugs which kill cancer cells.

In a way, the diagnosis was more frightening for Sam's parents, as all he knew was that he had an illness and that the treatment should make it better.

"You have to stay positive for his sake. We we all learning at the time. You have to learn about chemotherapy and all these new drugs."

"But he took it very well. As far as he was concerned it was something that was going to make him feel better."

She praised the consultants at other staff at Bristol Children's Hospital, who gave the family a full run down of the types of drugs used, the possible side effects.

The treatments were spread over a two year period, with a few courses of intensive chemotherapy interspersed with low dose tablets.

These managed to put the cancer into "remission", meaning there were no signs of it in tests.

Carinne said: "He did cope extremely well. He did lose his hair, and was obviously very tired, and did get the sickness, but he was obviously fantastic."

The family has another son, and Corinne felt shey did neglect him slightly during this period by turning most of their attention to Sam.

"Our other son, we did try to involve him, but other people were looking after him for us."

The family coped with the illness by maintaining a positive attitude.

Positive thinking

"You have to think that your child is going to get better.

"What I found quite hard to cope with was when we were in the hospital with him - at the end I found that I had to let my husband go and sleep with him.

It makes you wake up every day and be grateful.

Corinne Reddington
"I found it extremely upsetting to see all the other children coping with everything, and there were occasions when a particular child didn't make it through. That is what got to me.

"You could see the nurses coming along with this drug, and it was so poisonous they were wearing gloves, and this drug was being put into my child's body.

But, she says, the experience has changed her outlook on life: "It makes you wake up every day and be grateful.

"If I'm looking through some photographs and I come across one of Sam when he was bald - and it really upsets me now.

"It upsets me but I'm really pleased we've come out the other end."
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See also:

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