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Celebrating Mother’s Day with Nicola McGrath

09 Mar 2024
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we pay tribute to all the wonderful mums, step-mums, grandmothers and carers whose lives have been impacted by childhood cancer. 
Today, we’re delighted to shine a spotlight on one very special mum, Nicola McGrath, who many readers may know from their visits to the Children’s Cancer Unit. Nicola’s daughter Lauren was diagnosed with a blood disorder in 2023 and here she talks about her family’s journey, what her children mean to her and how she’ll be spending this Mother’s Day.


Tell us about the special people who make you a Mum?

Matthew is 15, studying for his GCSEs and Lauren has just turned 12. Lauren has just started Year 8, she’s been out of school since January 2023. They are my world; my everything.

Can you tell us a little bit about Lauren’s story and how she’s doing now?

In January 2023, following blood tests at our Doctors, Lauren was admitted to the ward for the first of what was to be numerous and frequent blood and platelet transfusions. It wasn’t that Lauren was unwell to us, just tired, out of breath when exerting herself at times and would have bruised easily.

After numerous blood tests, a visit to theatre for a bone marrow aspiration and weeks of waiting, Lauren was diagnosed with a genetic condition causing her bone marrow to stop working.

Unfortunately, they don’t carry out bone marrow transplants for children in Northern Ireland, so we had to travel to Bristol for treatment. The search was on for a donor and we had to prepare ourselves to leave family and friends for an unknown period of time.

We were so fortunate a donor was found very quickly and it was my son, Matthew- Lauren’s big brother. Lauren’s transplant date was set for 19 May so we packed up our lives, put our beloved dog, Lily into kennels and flew to Bristol to live in Sam’s House, the most amazing home from home.

Chemo started on 12th May for a week to destroy what was left of Lauren’s bone marrow and her immune system and we spent the next three months in Bristol until Lauren was well enough to go home.

We have been so incredibly lucky to have such amazing medical teams in both Belfast and Bristol and thankfully the transplant engraphed and Lauren is doing amazingly well. There have been bumps along the way and journey hasn’t been an easy one, but we are very blessed and grateful to be where we are today.

Lauren recently rang the bell to signal the end of her bone marrow treatment and she started her new school a few weeks ago which was a huge milestone for us. Getting back to school was something that always seemed so out of reach when Lauren was first diagnosed and going through treatment.

Your son Matthew played a very special role in helping Lauren- tell us about this.

Matthew has been an absolute star in all this, a true hero! We were so very very lucky that Matthew was a perfect match and was Lauren’s bone marrow donor.

He has been through a lot over the last year. Watching his little sister go through so much, having the responsibility of being her donor on his shoulders, watching as she lost her hair and was so sick and being separated from us as we lived in Bristol while he lived back here with his grandparents. We only got to see him when we were able to fly him across. All this was going on while he was studying for some of his GCSE modules.

Having to be separated as a family was one of the most horrendous parts of the whole journey. We are so incredibly proud of Matthew and the young man he has become. He is Lauren’ s hero, her big brother and her best friend.

What advice would you have for other Mums facing a childhood cancer diagnosis?

At the start of our journey, I couldn’t see past the initial diagnosis. It’s easy for me to say now, but you do find the strength.

I would say live in the moment. Take photos of everything and create as many memories as you possibly can.

Keep a diary, as days and weeks, dates and appointments all roll into one and it’s hard to remember everything. Listen and take notes at appointments. DO NOT google or do your own research- it isn’t helpful or healthy. Be led by your consultant and specialist nurse, even though that is so so difficult.

Cry! It’s ok to cry. Although you might feel that if you start you won’t stop…I promised you- you will. And talk to someone: a friend, family member or one of the amazing team on the ward or the Clinical Psychologists. It doesn’t matter who, as long you talk to someone.

Depending on the age of your child, be honest with them. And don’t think too far ahead. Accept that you can’t control this monster, so be kind to yourself- your child and family need you.

Accept help! Dinner, ironing, whatever it is- don’t be stubborn. I know us mummies all like to think we are Wonder Woman, we can’t do everything so just say yes.

Finally, hug your children every day and tell them you love them

What makes you proud as a Mum?

My children. How resilient, strong, brave, loving, compassionate, caring, funny they are. I look back at all the photos I’ve taken over the past year and my heart could literally burst. Everything we have been through as a family and they are always smiling, loving life and have an amazing appreciation for the smaller things in life as well as the big things.

If you do manage to get some ‘you time’, what do you like to do?

I’m a reality TV fan- anything Real Housewives, Love Island I’m glued! I also love working in the garden and of course shopping with my Mum- I’m a bit of a shopper!

How will you be spending this Mother’s Day this year?

I’m not sure yet… you’d have to ask Ciaran (my hubby) and the kids!

I know I’ll be spending the day with Matthew and Lauren. And definitely visiting my mum and mother- in-law as I really couldn’t have got through this year without both of them.

Hopefully the day will involved getting spoiled and maybe a nice dinner. All the while being grateful and thinking of other mummies who have become friends during this journey.

If you would like to share your story and experiences with childhood cancer, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch at or send us a message on our Facebook or Instagram accounts.

McGrath family