Brave Mark reboots the ice bucket challenge as his dad battles cancer

A LOVING son from Walterstown whose 'only wish' was for his father to be cured of stage 4 cancer has rebooted a virtual charity campaign to ‘help people like his dad get better.’

Nine-year-old Mark Mooney a second class student of Lismullen NS came up with the idea to bring back the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ to raise funds for the Irish Cancer Society.

In January, Mark’s dad John (40), received a shock diagnosis of advanced Colorectal Cancer having been ill for just a number of weeks.

Just one day later he was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery before embarking on six gruelling courses of chemotherapy over 12 weeks.

Childhood sweethearts John and wife Naomi (38), were dealt a further blow when they were forced to cancel their wedding that had been organised by the kindness of local suppliers in just a few weeks due to coronavirus restrictions.

With John’s deteriorating health, the defiant couple were determined to finally become husband and wife and opted for a spiritualist ceremony with just three guests that all caught on Zoom so family and friends could be a part of the day.

Proud mum Naomi says both she and John have been ‘blown away’ by their son’s heartwarming gesture and ‘bravery’ during this difficult time.

“It has been a tough few months for Mark. He had to have his 9th birthday celebrations by himself and his First Holy Communion has been postponed.

“He also has to do lots of trips with us to Drogheda hospital when I’m dropping or collecting John from various appointments but he never complains and just gets on with it.

“With so much going on in his little world, so much stress and disappointment in the last number of months, he felt he wanted to do something positive and so decided to start this fundraiser and so far he has raised nearly €4.5k in just over a week.”

Naomi describes the heartbreaking chain of events that led to the devastating diagnosis.

“We thought John had a hernia initially, he was getting a lot of pains, he wasn’t eating and he was losing weight.

“A few weeks later he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colorectal Cancer. It was a real shock.

“He had to have emergency surgery the following day to do an emergency defunctioning loop colostomy as his bowel had perforated a small amount and was at risk of a lot larger one happening.

“After more tests, we were advised that the cancer is advanced but treatable so we are hoping to keep it stable as long as possible, you have to hold on to the hope.

“At the time, what I found hardest was the thoughts of telling Mark. How he was going to take it and how was it going to impact on him?

“The palliative care team and the medical social workers in the hospital were great talking to us about how to explain it to him.”

It was ‘more important than ever’ for the couple who are together since 2002 to finally tie the knot and ‘solidify their family unit,’ according to the Walterstown mum.

Getting a soaking...Naomi and John do the honours for Mark (9).

“With John starting the chemotherapy we wanted to get married as early in his treatment as possible so he would still be well enough to do it.

“It was solidifying us as a family against cancer, against the world that despite what life has thrown at us we could still get our marriage and our family unit that we wanted for so long.

“With help from amazing friends and wedding suppliers, we managed to arrange a wedding within a matter of weeks.

“It was scheduled to take place in the Station House in Trim on the 26th of March but obviously with coronavirus put a dampener on all of that as well.

“With John’s poor health we decided to go ahead with it at the Spiritualist Ceremonies office with just the three of us along with my mother and youngest sister as witnesses and another sister as our zoom expert so our guests could at least watch the service.

“It was a bit surreal, we had to bring our own pen up to sign the marriage licence, there was no hugs, we took a picture after with John and I and Mark in the middle and our family either side of us at a distance.

“We are hoping that John’s health will stay stable enough for long enough for the risk of Covid 19 to him to be gone so we can have our day sometime in the future.

“My wedding dress is in the bridal shop waiting for me.”

Naomi describes a heartwarming moment when nine-year-old Mark made a wish for his dad to get better.

“Over the last few years, myself and Mark have had a tradition that whenever there is a meteor shower and a clear night, I’ll wake him up during the night so we can watch out for shooting stars together.

“In the past, his wishes have always been for something for himself but when out for the most recent one, his first wish was for his dad to get better so he no longer needed chemo and his second was that everyone be kept safe from coronavirus and that they’d find a cure.

“Going through something like this, makes you realise that you have to make the most of everything that you can and appreciate those you love because you don’t know what’s around the corner.”

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