THE family of an inspiring Cork teen, who recently underwent surgery to remove 15 tumours from his lung, has extended their gratitude to locals who raised vital funds to pay for his treatment expenses.
Kacper Kozlowski is currently recovering from his fifth major surgery since being diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2020, when he was aged just 12.
At the time it was thought that the local underage hurler had sustained an injury from his scooter, but a biopsy revealed otherwise.
Kacper had the honour of ringing the bell at Crumlin Hospital-a warm tradition marking the end of a child’s chemotherapy sessions-14 months later.
However, his victory was short-lived after it was discovered that the cancer had spread to his lungs.
Kacper's family is supporting him as he continues a long battle with the disease.
The 14-year-old's father Marcin said that a scan next month will reveal how many tumors-if any-remain in the left lung.
In the meantime, the teen is keeping up his chemotherapy as he perseveres to make the most of his summer holidays.
Despite countless setbacks, Kacper has never given up on his dreams and would like to become a doctor one day to help other kids like himself.
Local fundraising veteran Mark O’Sullivan (aka Fanta) has played a huge part in the community's fundraising efforts to support Kacper's family to date, along with his friend Dots Tobin.
Shortly before Kacper's surgery, he walked 27km from Youghal to Midleton in a full fireman outfit weighing more than 35lbs in aid of the Ultimate Walk Challenge for Kacper.
Mark's friend, Dots Tobin, had also played an instrumental role in organising the fundraiser.
Kacper had arrived at the event in a wheelchair but mustered the strength to take a few steps while accompanying Mark to the finish line.
"That was a very proud and emotional day for me. I was proud of Kacper to the moon and back," Marcin recalled.
Marcin praised the community for their efforts to help his family, describing them as "angels".
"You only need a few people you can count on," Marcin said. "People like Fanta and Dots-they are angels. Those involved with Midleton GAA have also been incredible. I've never met anybody like them."
He described how the situation has taught them to live in the moment.
"You try to be everything for them," he said, referring to his children Kacper and Zofia. "However, we try to think about "today" now instead of focusing on what will happen tomorrow. After chemo we forget about everything. Our attitude is that tomorrow is a new day. We try not to think about anything unless it is happening now."
Regular trips to Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin have taken their toll on the family, often leaving them exhausted.
"They (the nurses) always joke with him saying "Kacper you're a great boy but we never want to see you again.
"However, we are always back like a boomerang. We have been to Crumlin hundreds of times, sometimes for appointments only lasting between five and 15 minutes."
He spoke about the strong bond Kacper shares with his younger sister Zofia.
"Kacper and his sister love each other very much. Even when they are fighting you can feel the love."
Marcin admitted it can often be difficult to stay motivated.
"Every time something like this happens you ask yourself why but you have to keep going."
Kacper receives a string of get-well cards from friends in the locality as well as classmates from Midleton CBS after every operation.
"I get them for every surgery. There might be 10 cards, all filled with names", Kacper said.
The 14-year-old spoke of how his parents carry the burden of worry so he doesn't have to.
"I don't worry. The only time I feel the stress is when I'm in that theatre about to be put to sleep. I feel like it was easier for me because parents care about their children so much. That's why they worry a lot. "