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Cork Lives
Adelina Corigliano at home in East Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Adelina Corigliano at home in East Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

We knew we had to kick cancer’s butt!

CORK teenager Adelina Corigliano knows that, every week, four children and teenagers are diagnosed with cancer in Ireland.

The 16-year-old also knows that the nurses and doctors in St John’s cancer ward at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin, look after these children with dedication and kindness.

She knows all this because she has been there herself, and faced a cancer diagnosis.

When she was six years old, Adelina, from Midleton, was diagnosed with Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that mainly affects children and teenagers.

“The doctors and nurses in St John’s ward are so lovely,” she says. “They give nothing but the very best to the patients in their care.”

Mum Lynda agrees. “The care and constant dedication that the staff at Crumlin gave to Adelina was just fantastic. When she lost her hair, the staff made it seem cool to her. It was easier to deal with.”

Adelina Corigliano and with her consultant, Mr Capra.
Adelina Corigliano and with her consultant, Mr Capra.

So grateful are Adelina and Lynda for the care she received, that the family have raised in excess of €52,000 for St John’s Ward through various fund-raising activities.

The money is vital as the ward is currently being upgraded and a further €2 million is required to complete the job.

Lynda remembers back to the fateful day a decade ago, in May, 2007, when her daughter was diagnosed and the family’s life changed.

It began when six-year-old Adelina took a tumble off her bicycle.

“She got 15 stitches in her head,” says Lynda. “It was a nasty fall, but we were not prepared for the news that we received a week later when she got the stitches removed.

“Adelina had had a lump removed by a plastic surgeon in the Bon Secours, and we were told that she had stage 2 cancer.

“In a million years, we couldn’t have imagined what we were going to deal with. The shock was unbelievable. We just stood there and barely took it in.”

Lynda and her husband, Pasquale, who own the restaurant La Trattoria, in Midleton, didn’t know what Lymphoblastic Lymphoma was.

“We just knew it was something bad,” says Lynda. “When we got a second opinion, there was no mistake. I was 12 weeks’ pregnant with our fourth child, Gianna.”

Two years of intensive chemotherapy was on the cards for Adelina at Crumlin Children’s Hospital, then at the Mercy Hospital, Cork, when she was in remission.

“Initially, we didn’t leave her side for 40 days,” says Lynda. “She was in a semi-coma. When I couldn’t touch her because I was pregnant, I asked my husband, did she wake up yet?”

What did Adelina say when she did wake up?

“She asked for a bacon sandwich!” says Lynda, smiling at the memory.

“My sister, Tracey, travelled up from Cork. She was with us for a lot of the time. It was a dark time in our lives.”

 Adelina Corigliano at home in East Cork with her mother Lynda and younger sister Gianna. Picture: Denis Minihane.
 Adelina Corigliano at home in East Cork with her mother Lynda and younger sister Gianna.
Picture: Denis Minihane.

Lynda says things can change for people in a heartbeat.

“We had a normal life. Everything was going our way. One morning, in a blink of an eye, it all changed. My child was fighting for her life.”

The Coriglianos never gave up hope that their daughter would pull through.

“When Adelina continued her treatment in Cork, we travelled to Crumlin every six weeks,” says Lynda. “The treatment was horrific. Adelina was getting chemotherapy through her spine.

“I wasn’t able to touch my child because I was expecting a baby. When Adelina was diagnosed, we were told that she had a 70% chance of survival. We were also told that the chemotherapy treatment could be fatal.

“We had to go with it if there was a chance it could save our little girl. We had no choice.”

Lynda had to leave her other children, Maria, then 12, and Georgio, who was sitting his Junior Cert, with relatives, while she watched over her sick daughter in St John’s ward day and night.

“Pasquale and I vowed not to cry in front of her,” says Lynda. “I remember asking, how do we do that?”

The family did what they had to do.

“I stayed in the Ronald McDonald House from May to November,” says Lynda. “Pasquale came to be with us when he could. The journey from Cork to Dublin was long and arduous then. There was no motorway.

“The journey took more than four hours. We had no idea how long we would be in Crumlin. Ronald McDonald house was fantastic.

“Everybody in the house had a common bond and we all supported each other. We remain friends for life.

“Unfortunately, we lost some dear friends along the way as well. I often think of the families who have lost children.”

Lynda and Pasquale got wonderful support from the staff in Crumlin.

“Before Adelina got cancer, her hair was brown and it was straight,” says Lynda. “It grew back brown and curly. The staff at the hospital made that fun. The tumour was above her hair-line. No hair ever grew back there. It is like a mark representing her battle scar.”

Adelina Corigliano. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Adelina Corigliano.
Picture: Denis Minihane.

Adelina was a little trooper.

“She never cried once when her blood was taken regularly,” says Lynda. “She never gave out.”

When Adelina was in remission and she was able to get treatment in the Mercy Hospital in Cork, she got home schooling.

“Her teachers came from Aghada National School to our house for two years,” says Lynda.

Adelina continued to be brave.

“She’d go into school for one hour a week. She went into the classroom without her hair. She was bald. It was OK. At one stage, she asked if she could have a pink wig,” says Lynda.

“We just had to ensure that there was no sickness in the classroom for fear of infection.

“We all wanted life to continue as normal as possible.

“Pasquale didn’t go to work for six months. He had arranged for a manager to look after our restaurant.”

Baby Gianna arrived six weeks early. But after a short stint in the neo-natal ward, the new addition to the Coriglianos was fine.

And ten years after her cancer scare, Adelina is fine too — a tall, healthy girl. A transition student at St Mary’s High School, Midleton, she loves rowing in East Ferry and art is her favourite subject.

She loves giving back to the hospital and staff that saved her life. And she loves raising funds for the ward.

“When Adelina was 10 years old, she took part in the very first Superhero fun run in Fota Wildlife Park for the hospital with me,” says Lynda.

“Adelina said, ‘Mum, if it helps other children with cancer, then let’s do it’.

“She was awarded the Child’s Hero Award for 2010 for raising €150,000 for cancer research by participating in fun runs and walks.

“Two years previously, we didn’t know if she would live to see her 10th birthday.”

The family feel forever indebted to Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children.

“We wanted to show our appreciation for the wonderful care that we received all during Adelina’s illness,” says Lynda. “The medical staff in St John’s ward saved Adelina’s life. They went above and beyond the call of duty.”

“I’ve done quite a few sponsored walks and the mini marathon for Crumlin,” says Adelina. “Cake sales are always a great success and everybody supports them. Our neighbours, our customers, and all the local people are so generous.”

The family are generous to those in need.

Their Easter Egg raffle is in aid of a Cavan girl, Chauntelle Tynan, who needs medical treatment abroad.

“We understand the anxiety and trepidation that go with a serious diagnosis,” says Lynda.

“We know what it’s like to be in trouble. No money in the world could save us. But we knew we had to kick cancer’s butt.”

And they did.

“We feel so lucky that Adelina has a decent chance at life now that, ten years on, she is in full remission from her illness,” says Lynda.

“She was so grateful when she got the clear results of her final scan when she was 16. Everyone needs a chance at life and if we can help, we will.”

Adelina has kept in contact with her consultant at Crumlin, Mr Michael Capra.

“He is wonderful,” says Adelina. “I am so grateful to Mr Capra and to the entire medical staff who treated me. I got a lovely letter from him.”

What did it say?

“Mr Capra told me to have the life that I dream of,” says Adelina. “To have the life that I deserve.”

FACT FILE

St John’s ward in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, is the main cancer ward for children in Ireland.

Last year alone, the ward dealt with 1,140 patients and more than 7,200 day patients.

Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, 14-18 Drimnagh Rd. Crumlin. Dublin 2

Lo-call: 1890-507 508

Email:[email protected]