Dublin woman caring for daughter with brain tumour after husband’s death

Siofra Coffey’s husband died of a brain tumour less than three years ago

Siofra Coffey and her daughter, Riona Pagan (10). After a break from all medicines, Riona will undergo six rounds of chemotherapy which will be done at home.

Siofra Coffey and her daughter, Riona Pagan (10). After a break from all medicines, Riona will undergo six rounds of chemotherapy which will be done at home.

 

A Dublin woman whose husband died of a brain tumour less than three years ago is now caring for her 10-year-old daughter as she continues treatment for a similar condition.

Siofra Coffey’s husband, Ben Pagan, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in early 2013 and died in July 2015, three days after his 37th birthday.

In March of this year, Ms Coffey’s 10-year-old daughter Riona started complaining of headaches.

“It was very subtle really,” she said. “I didn’t even have to give her any pain-relief medicine.”

She has a five- or six-week break from all medicines now after which there will be six rounds of chemotherapy, which will be done at home

The child had a pre-arranged GP visit just before her school broke for the Easter holidays. However, she started vomiting and her mother, thinking she had a bug, kept her out of the doctor’s surgery because she did not want the illness to be passed on.

CT scan

The girl’s condition did not improve and after a couple of days she was brought to the local GP and then to Temple Street children’s hospital where a CT scan was ordered.

Not long after the scan had been completed, Ms Coffey and her child were given a private room in the hospital. “I didn’t twig why as Riona was not the sickest child on the ward. But then a neurosurgeon came in and asked if my husband was going to come in.”

She explained to the doctor that he had died and he took her out of the room, to be away from her daughter, where he broke the devastating news that her child “had a brain tumour”.

You can’t live in the future. You just have to carry on and you can’t be worried about what might happen

Days later, Riona had successful brain surgery and the tumour was removed. Since then she has been through 30 sessions of radiotherapy and chemotherapy and last Friday had her first full day back at school since she fell ill.

“She has a five- or six-week break from all medicines now after which there will be six rounds of chemotherapy, which will be done at home,” Ms Coffey said.

Optimistic

* “The doctors are optimistic about Riona’s recovery but there are no 100 per cent certainties,” he mother said.  “I just live in the moment. I learned that when Ben was sick. You can’t live in the future. You just have to carry on and you can’t be worried about what might happen.”

Her friends have set up a GoFundMe campaign to help the family cover the cost of a holiday for Riona and her younger sister Fiadh. The initiative had a target of €2,000 but in little more than a week has topped €5,000. “It wasn’t my idea and I really don’t want people to think that I’m looking for anything,” she said.

As to where they might go, she is undecided. Riona is travelling to Amsterdam with the Make A Wish foundation later this summer. “She loves the look of Lisbon,” her mother said. “I think she would like to go there.”

gofundme.com/riona039s-holiday-fund

This article was amended on August 31st, 2018