A COURAGEOUS little boy is looking forward to his first cancer-free Christmas since the age of one.
Tom Cahill, known as Tom Tom to friends and family, came to prominence recently after receiving a National Children of Courage Award from the Share a Dream Foundation. The future looks bright for the Midleton four-year-old as he awaits Santa’s arrival.
“I have everything I need this year,” his mum Paula said. “It’s not about what’s under the tree, it’s about who’s around it. The last few Christmases haven’t been great for Tom Tom. I’ll never forget when he had to spend Christmas Day in isolation back in 2016. He was in bed and Santa was coming to visit each child. All Tom Tom could say was ‘no Santa’, ‘no Santa’. He was so tired and weak. My husband Thomas had to make the journey home to spend Christmas Day with the boys. It was very upsetting to be apart, but we had to make the best of it.”
Tom Tom’s journey began when, at just 14 months old, his mum Paula took him to South Doc with a swollen abdomen. They were referred to the Emergency Medicine Unit at Cork University Hospital and later Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin following a suspected renal mass. It was here that doctors identified a large tumour on Tom Tom’s kidney.
“Crumlin put their arms around us,” Paula recalled. “Tom Tom was fitted with a Hickman line for his first course of chemo. He took his first steps on St Peter’s Ward. I’ll never forget it how he toddled his way over to Emer — a nurse in the hospital. After his surgery, we were unable to carry him as a result of the wounds under his arms.”
The family were relieved to learn that Tom Tom’s tumour was benign.
“This was the best outcome we had hoped for. We were told to just mind him and enjoy our lives.”
However, the following November, the family were hit with another devastating blow.
“In my darkest nightmares, I never imagined that we would be hit so badly. We were in a state of shock. His blood tests were through the roof. The right lung was so taken up with a tumour it was pushing his windpipe and heart over to his right lung. We weren’t even sure if he would make the journey to Crumlin.”
“While most people can take in 100% air he was only working on 30%. It was all very touch and go.
“There were nights where we were just willing him to stay alive. The surgeon had removed half lungs before, but never ones with an active tumour around it.
“Nonetheless, he knew he would give Tom Tom the best chance.
After surgery, Tom Tom had to be unhooked from so many lines and wires it took a half an hour to remove them just so he could lie in his father’s arms for a cuddle.”
She said that seeing their brother after treatment was initially a shock for Tom Tom’s brothers, Jack (9) and Charlie (6).
“It was all very surreal. Seeing Tom Tom without his mop of black hair after chemo was a shock for Tom Tom’s brothers, but it wasn’t long before they wanted to play PlayStation with him.”
She said this Christmas will be in stark contrast to previous years.
“He felt miserable before and was too young to grasp the concept of Christmas. Now we are together. We must have seen Santa around 14 times. Tom Tom couldn’t believe he knew his name!
“He started Montessori in September and is Santa’s elf in the school play. He sees the happiness and joy in everything.”
As far as Paula was concerned, being strong throughout their battle was her only option.
“You have to be positive, As a mother, being strong is the only option.
“You would walk across hot coals for your children.”
Tom Tom recently celebrated his birthday with a party. He also celebrated with his grandfather who turned 70 on the same day.