IT is most humbling as a journalist – and a parent – to interview a mum talking so openly about her experience with child bereavement.
No parent should ever have to endure the agony of burying their son or daughter and only those who have been through these darkest of times could truly empathise with the pain that the rest of us can, thankfully, only imagine.
Rachel Ollerenshaw’s daughter Molly lost a brave five-year battle with cancer in June 2011. As a mum of two myself, it is impossible to comprehend how I would summon the strength to continue functioning again – and I find Rachel to be an inspiration.
The family, while not part of our social circles, have been a constant feature of our community network for some years. My eldest son attended the same school as Molly and indeed was in the same class as her brother Ben. Like most others in the school playground, I followed her cancer fight from the ‘safety’ of the sidelines and remember vividly the awful day her death was announced.
Also, like most others, I struggled with finding the right words of comfort. After all, what does one say at times like this? Would it come across as disingenuous? Would it be too upsetting for her? In hindsight I wish I’d said – or done – more.
It is for all these reasons and more that I have great pride in working alongside Rachel and her husband Tim eight years on. Through their charity Molly Olly’s Wishes they continue to celebrate their beautiful daughter’s legacy in the most wonderful way – by raising money to help change the lives of others going through life-threatening illnesses.
And I have pledged to put my (not inconsiderate) weight behind their continuing campaign to raise awareness and, ultimately, funds, for this most worthy of causes.
Molly Ollerenshaw’s journey was an arduous one – a tough ask for one so delicate in years. Diagnosed with a rare Wilms tumour in late 2006 soon after becoming unwell on a family day out, over the course of the next four-and-a-half years she underwent 11 operations which included removing her left kidney, part of her bowel and part of her liver, many months of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, stem cell transplants and blood and platelet transfusions.
But while Molly’s physical strength was weak, her spirit was remarkably strong – and, with the support of her family, she stayed determined to embrace all the challenges that lay ahead.
Molly joined the CLIC Sargent Youth Advisory Group to help improve the lives of children with cancer and, in 2010, narrated an Ardmann Studios short animated film designed as a guide for coping with radiotherapy. It is being widely used today in the UK and overseas to help improve the patient experience.
After fighting off three tumours, March 2011 was to bring the news the family had dreaded – the cancer had returned again.
It was to be just two and a half precious months until Molly slipped away at the family home on 15th June 2011 with mum and dad by her side.
Tim and Rachel had spent a large part of those five years in and out of hospital and soon realised that many of the patients they met did not benefit from the emotional or financial support that they had received for Molly and her siblings.
Driven by this – and a determination to keep Molly’s legacy alive – Molly Olly’s Wishes was officially born in September 2011.
Among its work, the charity grants special wishes to children and hands out Olly the Brave packs to hospitals which include a therapeutic toy lion with his own Hickman line and detachable mane (to help normalise the hair loss that comes with chemotherapy) as well as a purpose-written book called Olly The Brave And The Wigglys, which explains the journey through terminal illness in a child-friendly language.
Rachel tells me how the experience has opened her eyes to the abundance of goodwill around her. It’s been a journey of discovery in so many ways – but also a rewarding one. In what better direction is there to move on with your life after loss than helping others with theirs?
Rachel’s words to me resonate but none more so than when she reminds me that this is the sort of thing you always hear about but never believe will happen to you. This is something every parent can relate to. It doesn’t bear thinking about for most of us.
But families like the Ollerenshaws have no choice – and we should never underestimate the courage and determination they’ve continued to demonstrate through the work that’s led to the huge success of this charity.
Thank you Rachel and family for letting me in to share the next chapter of this most precious of journeys with you. I hope I can play at least a small part in helping you to help the charity keep helping others.
On that note. . . ‘How can we donate?,” I hear you all ask! It couldn’t be easier. Just click here.