Opinion: Deryn’s survival is not a miracle, it’s not all medical – it’s down the strength and spirit of his family

Deryn Blackwell, 14, enjoying life in Bristol with his family. Picture: Denise Bradley Deryn Blackwell, 14, enjoying life in Bristol with his family. Picture: Denise Bradley

Saturday, February 8, 2014
9:00 AM

Reporter ROSA MCMAHON reflects on her time in Bristol with the Blackwell family.

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Until this week I had never met Deryn Blackwell.

He is the teenager I have been writing about for more than a year but his gruelling battle with cancer and hundreds of miles of motorway have stopped an interview ever happening.

I often said I could recount the ins and outs of his four-year illness in my sleep, his mother told me sometimes he just wanted to die and other days he was desperate to live.

So meeting this boy who I had labelled ‘brave and inspirational’ without really knowing him at all was a strange moment.

After being on the brink of death at just 14, with so much left to do and live for, his survival is not a miracle, it’s not all medical - it’s down the strength and spirit of Deryn’s family.

I have never known their resolve to falter since the first telephone chat I had with his mother Callie in February last year.

Her positivity and humour through the darkest times astounds me every time we talk, and meeting her husband Simon and their younger son Dylan in Bristol completed the puzzle.

Their family life has been turned upside-down, they have all made sacrifices, and their lives will never be what they were before they left Norfolk all those months ago.

But after spending 24 hours with them in their new home-town of Bristol I am full of hope for what they call their new chapter.

I cried when I read a blog-post Callie wrote where she called him her “little baby boy”.

They were tears for their pain, for my own memories of loss and of disbelief at how cruel life can be to the most vulnerable.

But this family is living proof we can all bounce back from events and conditions which threaten to rip our lives apart.

Except the Blackwells haven’t just bounced back – with their persistent energy they leapt and bounded back in to the light.

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