Even when you're sick you can have fun
MY HEALTH EXPERIENCE:ELYSHA FOLEY is 14 years old. And although she looks and sounds like most other girls of her age, she has led a completely different life to date.
When she was just four years old, the Clare girl had problems with her eyesight and a strange compulsion to sink her teeth into things. For over a year she underwent a battery of tests to try to find out what was wrong with her and, at the tender age of five, was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
She has spent the past decade fighting this crippling disease, putting up with endless tests and lengthy hospital admissions, enduring gruelling bouts of chemotherapy and several operations but has finally come out the other side as a happy, healthy teenager.
WHEN I was four, I had a problem with my vision. My left eye was getting weaker and weaker and I had to wear an eye patch and glasses. Every morning I would pick out a cartoon figure sticker, usually a Disney princess one, and Mum would put it on my patch. I hated wearing that patch as it was very uncomfortable.
I would also leave teeth marks on everything and got into trouble at school because I used to eat all the pencils and crayons and bite the corners off the desks. I even bit a girl’s arm once. The doctors later said I might have done this because of pressure in my brain but I never felt any pressure there. I felt normal.
I had a lot of tests done including Cat scans, MRIs, ECGs, kidney tests, hearing tests and lumbar punctures.
When I was five, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour on my optic nerve, at the point where the nerves cross each other, right in the middle of my brain. It was inoperable. That means you can’t have an operation to take it away. So I had to start chemotherapy.
On my first day in St John’s ward in Crumlin I met my oncologist and my neurosurgeon. They were very nice, they explained about my tumour and showed me a picture of it from my MRI. It was a shiny circle in the middle of my brain. It actually looked very pretty, like a bright star in the middle of my brain.
I remember thinking that everybody was lovely – the nurses were so nice. All the kids had no hair and were very white. I had surgery the next day to have my broviac line put in. This is a white tube that goes in to my main vein just above where my heart is. All my meds, chemo, infusions and transfusions went through this.
The minute the chemo goes into the line you can feel it burn up through your body. It stings for a while but it’s okay, as Mum says it’s good/bad medicine and you have to get sicker to get better.
I had fun when I was in hospital. We were all in the same boat. In the outside world people would stare at me. But in Crumlin we were all the same, we had no hair and we all had wonky blood counts. We would play lots of games. When we were on our chemo, which takes hours, my friends and I would run and then jump on the wheelie thingy that the chemo bag [was hanging] from and have races down the corridor. The doctors and nurses would have to jump out of our way.