Home UK & World Northern Ireland teen diagnosed with cancer encourages others to volunteer with Make-A-Wish

Northern Ireland teen diagnosed with cancer encourages others to volunteer with Make-A-Wish

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When Ren Fitzgerald was diagnosed with cancer, the child’s family were told the five year survival rate was just 40%.

The 13-year-old, from Newry, was told the devastating news that she had Stage IV High Risk Neuroblastoma in July 2018 and days after, the Fitzgerald’s had another tough pill to swallow – the cancer had spread to Ren’s bones and bone marrow.

Ren’s mum Mary-Claire said: “They told us the five year survival rate was 40% and it was a complete shock.”

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Treatment began immediately and during the following 15 months, Ren underwent multiple cycles of chemotherapy, a seven-hour surgery, high dose chemotherapy with a stem cell transplant, 14 days of radiotherapy, and six rounds of immunotherapy.

In the middle of this, Ren was visited by Shane Coleman from Co Tyrone, who was volunteering for Make-A-Wish as a ‘Wish Maker’.

Shane said: “I’ve been a Make-A-Wish volunteer since 2007 and have visited over 150 children like Ren who are living with critical conditions to find out their wish.

“I’m committed to making the children’s dreams become a reality and will go above and beyond to ensure that no child goes without their wish.”

Ren and her sister meeting Emma

Ren’s wish was to meet Emma Watson, motivated by a love of Harry Potter and by the actress’ activist work concerning climate change and feminism.

A few months after finishing treatment, she travelled with their sister and parents to London in December 2019 courtesy of Make-A-Wish to meet Emma for afternoon tea at the Haymarket Hotel.

Ren said: ‘I didn’t really believe it would happen, but then it did. She was really kind.

“I had a whole book of questions and she answered them all. She even recorded a message for my friends. It was so exciting to meet and talk to one of my idols in person.”

A few months later, Shane got back in touch with the family to ask if Ren would like to join him as a Make-A-Wish volunteer and she was invited to represent Northern Ireland as part of Make-A-Wish’s ‘STARBoard’ – the charity’s Children and Young People’s Board which was established in May 2020 to help Make-A-Wish be truly child-led in its decision making.

Ren has volunteered for Make-A-Wish since 2020 and is urging others to volunteer for the charity in order to help grant wishes for critically ill children throughout Northern Ireland.

Ren at STARBoard
Ren at STARBoard

Emma Vizor, Volunteer Engagement Lead at Make-A-Wish, said: “Our vision is a world in which every critically child has their wish come true, and volunteers like Shane and Ren are vital in bringing that vision to life. But, with over 60,000 UK children currently eligible for a wish, we urgently need more volunteers to help grant wishes for children like Ren who have been through so much.

“This Volunteers Week (1-7 June) Make-A-Wish is appealing for volunteers throughout Northern Ireland to fill roles which it says are instrumental in making wishes come true.

“Donating your time has just as powerful an impact on achieving our vision as donations and fundraising. By visiting our webiste and joining our community, you can directly make a critically ill child like Ren’s wish come true.”

Now aged 16, Ren continues to be scanned every three months and receives occasional blood treatments but is now able to look forward to the future.

She said: “Being on STARBoard has shown me how much work goes into making amazing wishes come true, and how important volunteers are.

“Even when I was really poorly, Shane made the thought of having my wish come true so exciting. You can just tell that he really cares.

“I want to go to Queen’s University, Belfast, to study Creative Writing – that’s now my biggest wish.”

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https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/northern-ireland-teen-diagnosed-cancer-24112921

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