Lilly Mae Morrison (4 ) was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer that affects one in every 100,000 children in Ireland. During the VOlvo Ocean Race finale, Jamie Harrison, a local musician, performed on the streets of Galway to raise funds for the Sunni Mae trust, a charity set up to raise funds for Lilly Mae. After a total of four days busking, Jamie raised €6100 as a result of the generosity of the Galway people.
When four-year-old Claregalway girl, Lily-Mae Morrison got a pain in her back just over a month ago, her mother, Judith initially thought the child, who had rarely been sick since she was born, had pulled a muscle. But when Judith and her husband Leighton took their little girl for blood tests they were faced with news that no parent wants to hear. Lily-Mae was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma, a rare and very aggressive form of cancer.
The couple knew nothing about the disease until then – now as a result of this cruel twist of fate, they are experts. In most cases, with this cancer, parents and doctors don't know that it is there until tumours grow large enough to be felt. By Stage Four the cancer has spread to parts of the body including bone and bone marrow, which is what has happened in Lily-Mae’s case. Treatment began immediately after diagnosis and since life has been turned upside down for Lily-Mae, her parents and her two-year-old brother Evan.
Judith Sibley and Leighton Morrison are dancers and choreographers, who are involved with local companies Chrysalis Dance and Youth Ballet West. Both are self-employed and both have had to take time off to travel with their young daughter for her regular chemotherapy sessions in Crumlin Children’s Hospital. They travel to Dublin for treatment every seven days, staying there for four days each time.
Due to their employment status, they have been unable to claim any form of leave, so friends and family have been doing their best to help out with fundraising, and have also set up a fundraiser at www.idonate.ie Jamie said that Judy has 'taught ballet to both his sisters, Alice and Katy, and they remain good friends to this day".
He said that although he doesn't know Judy or Lilly Mae, the second he heard her story, he felt a moral obligation to help. "I felt that I had access to something that not a lot of people have access to (the streets ), and I immediately felt compelled to help".
Judy said that "Leighton and I have been truly blown away by the love and support we have received since Lily-Mae’s diagnosis. I cannot describe the shock and sadness we have suffered on learning that our beautiful angelic daughter has such a rare and deadly cancer with such an appauling prognosis. However, what has really helped us through this dreadful time has been the goodness of people, those we know and even that of strangers.
“I personally saw Jamie busking on the first day he was doing so in town, on what is now a rare day out. I only knew his two sisters and had never actually met Jamie, but now I know he is one of the kindest, caring, and sweetest young men I have met. A heartfelt thank you Jamie and the people of Galway.
Jamie claimed that "The people on the streets were so generous, and it was amazing to see such empathy for Lilly Mae and her family, particularly by people who had no connection with the story at all. It really shows you the good spirit in people, and shows that even strangers will support you in times of difficulty. It was difficult at the start for such emotion to be loaded on to me from almost every passer- by, such intense sadness, hope, positivity and encouragement was hard to take in all at once, but I knew that I was doing something I needed to do, and in the end, it really showed it was worth doing." Jamie's music can be found on youtube under jamieharrisonmusic.
Fundraising for the Sunni Mae Trust is going well so far, and Judith said that any money that is left over will be donated directly to Our Lady's children's hospital, to help others in a similar situation. Judith is under no illusion that Lily-Mae is facing the battle of her life – the survival rate for Stage 4 Neuroblastoma is put at between 30 and 50 per cent. But she and Leighton are hoping that by the end of summer the chemo will have controlled the cancer, so that the doctors can operate to remove the tumor on Lily-Mae’s back. “She’s doing well. She’s amazingly stoic and has a very strong personality,” says Judith.