The thoughtfulness and generosity of one family, even while they cope with a serious illness, is remarkable.
The Keoghan family’s world was rocked, earlier this year, when seven year-old Mollie was diagnosed with leukaemia. Now they are preparing to make a massive donation to the charity that is supporting them as part of the proceeds from raffling their house in Kilkenny.
Win a dream house in Ireland is the prize offered by the £5-ticket raffle, and the Keoghan’s hope to be able to donate £40,000 to the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group, from a percentage of the ticket sales.
The house was built in 2010 when Mark, like many other immigrants, hoped to move home to Ireland one day.
Just eight miles from the city, the four bedroom, barn style house is situated on the side of a hill with stunning views across the countryside.
But the house has become a second home to the family, who are based in England, and they have made the decision to raffle it off - while helping those that are helping them through a worrying time.
Mark Keoghan, Mollie’s dad, is from Threecastles. He left Kilkenny in 1999 to train to be a pilot. Since then he has married Lucy and they have Mollie and her two little brothers, Alfie (6) and Teddy (4). Their lives are in the UK, where the children are in school, and close to Lucy’s family in Derby.
With the ravages of the pandemic on the travel industry Mark is on furlough from his airline job, with that in mind, and then with the shock of Mollie’s diagnosis, Mark decided that it would be prudent for the family’s future to dispose of the house in Ireland.
Thankfully the NHS covers all of Mollie’s treatment, but the family are also receiving wonderful support from the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group.
Mollie was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia during the summer, after weeks of feeling ill and waking up at night with mystery pains. Once she was diagnosed her treatment began with her first chemotherapy within hours.
“Back in March or April we noticed Mollie had pains in her arms, legs and chest, but we put it down to growing pains,” Mark said. She was tired on family walks and began waking up at night in pain. Four times Mark and Lucy took Mollie to A&E but every time she would have a ‘miraculous recovery’ on the drive there. This happened four times in two months. But the fifth time Mollie woke up screaming in pain Mark said it reminded him of having kidney stones, and he wondered could that be what she had, or appendicitis. This time she didn’t ‘recover’ in the car and at the hospital more medical staff were called in. Owing to Covid-19 only one parent could stay and Lucy was with Mollie when she was told her little girl was to be moved to a ward Lucy knew was for very sick children.
Mark and Lucy were taken into a small room and told their daughter had leukaemia.
“Our world came to a standstill,” Mark said of the situation. “It was like a dream.”
Mollie was immediately transferred to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, for specialised care. “At that stage we didn’t know what it involved or how bad it was,” Mark said.
Mollie was put into isolation straight away and within “minutes” tests were done. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia was confirmed the next morning.
Positive news was that Mollie had a form of A.L.L. that is the better of two strains to treat. After 11 days in hospital Mollie was allowed home, where she has been treated since.
The Keoghan’s new life involves chemo, steroids and antibiotics two or three times a day; nurses come to do Mollie’s bloods every Monday. A few times Mollie has had to return to hospital for a blood transfusion when her bloods were low.
Every Friday Mollie goes back to the hospital for a lumbar puncture. She calls this her ‘magic sleep’ and looks forward to her treat afterwards.
There are five blocks of treatment in Mollie’s plan, over two years. She’s currently in block three and the family have been warned block four is the hardest. This is due to start on December 4, and with the expectation Mollie will have to spend time in hospital during this block of treatment the Keoghans have started Christmas celebrations early, so she can enjoy the tree and decorations.
Mark says the treatment has affected Mollie. She has lost her hair and because her bones have been affected she walks differently. Mollie also has a permanent nasal tube for her medication. The seven-year-old chose to have the tube rather than up to 100 needles a day or to take all her medications orally.
Surprisingly, Mollie’s doctors have encouraged her to continue to spend as much time at school as possible. Most days she goes in for a half day, and this is important to help her build up her immune system and also for the social interaction with her friends.
The Covid situation actually helps, because everyone is wearing a mask, Mark says.
Mark and Lucy are both able to be at home with Mollie and her brothers as they go through this. Mark is on furlough from his airline and Lucy is not working. “We’re both here, which is great,” Mark says. His employers, Jet2, have been fantastic, he adds, but it is one of the reasons why they decided to offload their second house in Kilkenny.
“I’m not a second house person,” Mark says, explaining it had been his plan to move home one day, but with his family settled in the UK that won’t be happening and it had been in the back of his mind to sell it. “It was a long term dream, now things are different and I’m trying to think ahead. The last thing I need is two houses.”
Selling the house is not to fund Mollie’s treatment, which is covered by the NHS. The family have also had amazing support from the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group. “They are always there for us. There is no way we could ever repay them,” Mark says. If they sell all 130,000 tickets in the raffle the Keoghans will be able to donate £40,000 to the charity. “This is the only way we know to help.”
The charity provides families with equipment, respite breaks and funds research into the disease.
Tickets are sold online and can be bought from anywhere in the world - tickets have already been bought from as far away as Australia, New Zealand and the USA.
The website is Raffall.com - click here to go straight to the ticket page. You must register on the website then verify your email to complete the purchase. You can also see a video and photographs of the beautiful house online.
You can also find out more about the raffle on the Facebook page Dream House Ireland.
The Keoghans won’t be able to travel while Mollie is having treatment, for the next two years. With the pandemic her granny and grandad, aunts and uncle in Kilkenny can’t visit her either. They all miss each other. “There’s only so much Facetime can do. You need to see people and give them a hug,” Mark says. They are really looking forward to the next time they can get back to Kilkenny.