A mum whose two young daughters were diagnosed with different cancers says life became like “living in a nightmare”.
Claire Bruce, 32, was devastated shortly after her daughter Lacey, born 10 years ago, was diagnosed with an aggressive type of leukaemia.
Just a few years later, and after the birth of a second girl called Imogen, the family from Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, faced a fresh “nightmare” after tests showed she too had a form of the blood cancer.
After years of treatments, hospital appointments and being unable to live a normal life, both girls will soon be finished their treatment.
In June this year, the family are planning an “extra celebration” as Clare is due to get married at the same time treatments will end.
Imogen, six, is scheduled for her last session of maintenance therapy due in June on the same week mum Claire will marry her dad Michael.
Claire said she always tried to look on the bright side and was “grateful” both daughters had made it through.
She told the Daily Record: “It is really unlucky for both of your children to be diagnosed with cancer- but it its extremely lucky for them both to survive.
“That has to be my view of it all, you have to be grateful for what you have got.
“I know other families who have lost children so I think it is really important to remember that.
“We just can’t wait for June now.
“Treatments have been such a big part of her life for so long, I can’t wait for her to enjoy a normal child’s life- to go out playing with her pals, to go to school, to have a bath.
“The wedding had always been planned to be small but now it will be an extra celebration.
“The past ten years have been absolutely crazy and I really hope that June will be a chance to put that all in the past, move on and enjoy a normal life together as a family.”
Cafe worker Claire said that Lacey’s “screaming all night” after being born had first alerted her to the problems which led to the diagnosis of AML – Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.
She said: “It was just constant screaming. I was a new mum and was still figuring everything out but I knew it wasn’t right.
“Lacey was admitted into Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital at 3-week-old and had a lumber puncture fully awake (not under sedation) as this is procedure with babies.
“The doctors determined she had a viral infection. From then until Lacey reached 7 months old we were admitted into hospital every month with various breathing problems – bronchitis, turning pale, blue around the lips and three times we were in the High Dependency Unit before we were eventually told on the 23rd of June 2011 that my 7 month old baby had, AML – Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.
“Lacey was so ill by the time she was diagnosed that she was airlifted to Yorkhill Children’s Hospital in Glasgow.
“I was not allowed to go in the plane with her and had to drive from Aberdeen to Glasgow within 10 hours of her being diagnosed.
“She was then put into an induced coma for two weeks and onto a ventilator because she couldn’t breathe on her own.”
Lacey then fought through five rounds of gruelling chemotherapy before coming out and getting the all clear.
She has been in remission for eight and a half years.
With little Imogen, Claire said she felt she was “living a nightmare” after her new daughter started becoming unwell.
She said: “It was just living a nightmare finding that out but you try and keep goig.
“She was taken for a scan and was found to have an enlarged spleen.
“We never made the 5 weeks and returned on Valentine’s Day. Imogen’s legs were full of bruises – she could barely walk.
“That night Imogen was diagnosed with ALL – Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia and started treatment straight away.”
The family then had to travel to Aberdeen three times a week for her treatment.
“We had 110-mile round trips every second day and it was very tiresome,” she said.
“Times were hard watching a second child suffer, but the end goal is worth it.
“Imogen didn’t tolerate treatment well and was inpatient slot during the first ten months, she also needed a lot more transfusions than she should have.”
Claire added: “It was two different journeys as they were two different types of cancer.
“I’m just glad we have made it through and I’d like to thank everyone who has been there for us over all the years.”
During their struggles the family have been supported by the Archie Foundation in Aberdeen- which helps unwell children.
Claire will be taking part in an Artic trek in 2022 for the When You Wish Upon a Star charity which grants the wishes of terminally ill children.
She added: “I want to just help people who have been in our position. There is nothing more special than the smile on a child’s face.”