Romy McGahy, aged six, has returned to Guernsey after an 18-month battle in Southampton with high risk neuroblastoma – an aggressive and life-threatening cancer.
From November 2021, Romy received intense oncology care at Southampton Hospital which involved multiple rounds of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy, surgeries, stem cell harvesting, reinfusions and urgent visits to A&E, mainly to treat infections.
The unpredictable nature of neuroblastoma led to unimaginable uncertainty for all involved, as 50% of children with stage four neuroblastoma have survived.
During this time, the McGahy family – Helen, Tom and little sister Zephyr – stayed in Isaac’s Pad, one of the Priaulx Premature Baby Foundation (PPBF)’s flats. The two-bedroom flat is located next door to Southampton Hospital, offered free of charge to Guernsey families needing to seek off-island treatment for a baby or child.
Romy’s mother, Helen McGahy, also decided to document the highs and lows of this journey through a special blog, while her eldest daughter bravely adapted to life in and out of hospital. Maintaining normality away from the comforts of home was far from easy, but Romy’s positivity shone through.
In May 2023, Romy was officially discharged and her family made the move back to Guernsey, just in time for Liberation Day. They have since been busy settling back into island life and processing everything that happened in between Covid-19 lockdowns, two Christmases, family visits and even fundraising for the PPBF in the form of Tom’s ‘Haircut Fundraiser’ back in January.
Helen McGahy says: ‘It seems like only yesterday that our worlds were turned upside down in the blink of an eye. The four of us arrived at Isaac’s Pad in the middle of the night with 2 hurriedly packed suitcases, travelling with Romy in her pyjamas with a cannula in her hand having been diagnosed with some sort of cancer the day before and having spent one night in hospital in Guernsey. Because she was deemed well enough to travel we flew on a commercial flight by ourselves, left the suitcases in the flat and took Romy across to the hospital to be admitted. We had no idea of the invasive, arduous and prolonged treatment that she would face once they discovered exactly what type of cancer she had, and we had no idea how long we would be in Southampton for. Her treatment path was unpredictable and due to being diagnosed with high-risk Neuroblastoma the treatment required us to stay in Southampton for the duration.
Romy may have been well enough to travel commercially but it felt like we were not in any sort of fit state of mind ourselves to be making this journey or dealing with everything the earth-shattering news entailed, and the whole thing is just a blur for us as parents. This makes Isaac’s Pad all the more important in our journey. It was a safe space that enabled us both to be close to Romy while still caring for our 15-month old. It allowed us to get her to Southampton and commence the treatment she so urgently needed without having to worry about hotels or making arrangements, and it was one less thing to think about when our world had come crashing down. We will be forever grateful for this home from home.’
‘The moment we heard that the McGahy family would be able to come back to Guernsey, we all felt a huge sense of relief for them. Romy has been through so much yet, in almost every photo, she is still smiling. Her strength has inspired us and we’ve come to know Helen and Tom very well. Despite all of the ups and downs during such a long time away from home, the couple have continued to selflessly support us through awareness raising and fundraisers, including Tom’s big haircut earlier this year. Although we are called the Priaulx Premature Baby Foundation, we also support critically ill children and it has been our absolute pleasure to provide Isaac’s Pad during an incredibly difficult time. We wish Helen, Tom, Romy and Zephyr all the best as they settle back into island life.’ – Jo Priaulx, PPBF co-founder.