FOR a Newtownstewart family the sound of St Eugene’s Church bell will never sound the same again, after it was rang in the most poignant fashion last weekend by little Clodagh McNamee.
Tolling out across the fields and echoing through the valley at Glenock on Friday, the sound marked the end of the five-year-old’s cancer treatment after a long two and a half years.
Clodagh had finished her cancer treatment on June 11 but then missed out on the tradition of ringing the special bell in the Children’s Cancer Unit at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, due to Covid-19.
Instead, the St Patrick’s Primary School pupil was said to have smiled from ear to ear as she rang the St Eugene’s bell, accompanied by parish priest Fr Roland Colhoun, to celebrate the incredible milestone.
Daughter of Ciara and Conor, Clodagh had been receiving treatment at the Royal after being diagnosed with leukaemia when she was just two and a half.
This week mum Ciara recalled the shock of the initial diagnosis in January 2018, after she took her daughter to the GP.
Speaking to the UH, Ciara said, “She became unwell, was very tired and had a temperature for a few days.
“She just wasn’t herself so we took her to the doctor and they transferred her to Belfast where she was diagnosed with leukaemia.
“Clodagh was supposed to ring the bell on June 11 after she finished two of her medicines but she couldn’t because of the Covid restrictions.
“She is only on one medicine now for another three months and thank God, she is doing well.
“It seemed to never take a flinch out of Clodagh – it took more out of us.
“She was great throughout the whole thing and very brave,” added Ciara.
Clodagh will also ring the bell in the Children’s Cancer Unit once lockdown restrictions have been lifted, but until then she was delighted to celebrate in her hometown.
“It was a really nice thing to do,” said Ciara.
“Fr Colhoun thought of the idea, and Clodagh was all chuffed.
“It was lovely for her and she enjoyed it.
“We don’t know when she will get to ring the bell in the hospital but we will go down once she is allowed.”
Throughout Clodagh’s treatment, the family were supported by Children’s Cancer Unit Charity and Clic Sargent, and received outstanding community support from local people.
Ciara continued, “We have received great community support, and also our family and friends have been amazing.
“Children’s Cancer Unit Charity and Clic Sargent were brilliant and just a great support to us.
“It was tough being away in Belfast especially at the start.
“The first time Clodagh was admitted we were in for nine and a half weeks, and we were meant to be out after four weeks.
“We got through it and we are now this far,” concluded Ciara.