Melody Berthoud
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The Christmas we shared with cancer

Melody Berthoud
Posted by
10 Dec 2017

The Christmas we spent in hospital was the year that Andrew, aged six, stopped believing in Father Christmas. But that didn’t stop us (and everyone around us) from making it special for him – and it certainly hasn’t stopped us from keeping the magic alive since.

Our son Andrew was just three and a half when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, in October 2012. He spent the next three years and four months – almost his whole life again – going through treatment, and finally entered remission last year.

Throughout Andrew’s treatment, I kept our loved ones up-to-date with a series of Facebook posts and blogs. Here’s what I wrote the year we shared our Christmas with blood cancer:

Christmas Eve, 2015

"Andrew’s neutrophils are up a bit to 0.5 x 109/l and his CRP levels are up to 36 mg/l. All other blood counts are looking good and his cultures are still negative. Andrew’s temperature has stayed low since about 8pm yesterday. The large viral rash he had has now gone.

Antibiotics are normally administered for five days, so we’ve been told that we’ll still be in hospital tomorrow. We’ve decorated Andrew’s room with tinsel, fairy lights and mistletoe, and he’s hung his stocking up and put out a glass of sherry and a mince pie for Father Christmas and a carrot for Rudolph.

Thanks for all the afternoon Christmas joy, goodies and visits in the hospital. I am touched you took time out of your Christmas Eve to come and see us."

Later that evening…

"I am heartbroken now. Leaving Andrew and his dad in the hospital was HARD. A part of me didn’t believe that I would actually have to leave Andrew there on the most magical night of the year. I don’t want to miss the moment that Andrew wakes up tomorrow and sees the stocking at the end of his bed…

I will snap out of it. A glass or two of my favourite Vouvray and some Twiglets will help. Enjoy your precious family time and special times. Merry Christmas from the Berthouds!"

Christmas Day, 2015

"We are home! Not just out for a few hours, but discharged and home for Christmas lunch."

27 December 2015

"It has been forty-eight hours since we were discharged from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Three naps and two good night’s sleeps later, I feel like we can function and begin to enjoy what is left of the Christmas holidays. That was the most intensely stressful and difficult week of the year.

On Christmas day, Clara woke at 6:30am, so we jumped into the car and drove straight to the hospital. She held onto her stocking for a whole hour before actually opening it with Andrew – she is AWESOME. She had made a pact with Andrew that they would only take two things out before being together. Gosh, I love them.

All of the staff were full of festive cheer: the play team, the cleaner, the cook, the nurses and the doctors.

Father Christmas brought the children fake poo and a fake pencil in their stockings – much hilarity was had asking the nurses to clear up poo and write notes. Then the nurse tricked the doctor with the wobbly pencil too – I didn’t dare!

The registrar came to us first, at 9am, to let us know that since Andrew had been temperature-free for over 40 hours, we could go home after the midday antibiotics. That was the best Christmas present ever.

Unfortunately, the two other cancer patients on the ward weren’t allowed home, so we were (hopefully) discreet in our whooping. The CEO of the Trust came to see us mid-morning with (yet another) Father Christmas who was giving out gorgeous hand puppets.

There was a lovely moment when the other boy on the ward bumped into Santa in the corridor and his face lit up on seeing HIM."

December 2017 - looking back on 2015

It was horrid not all being together for the run up to Christmas that year, but the wonderful staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital made Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the best they could be – and, to them, I would like to say thank you.

If your child ever has to be in hospital over the festive period, rest assured, there will be a team of people in and out of the hospital, ready to make it special for you.

The Bloodwise Support Line is open Monday to Friday 10-4 over the festive period (except bank holidays) on 0808 2080 888, or you can message us .The Samaritans are open throughout the Christmas period, you can call them on 116 123.