BACK in 2009, 11-year old Dylan Foster, from Maguiresbridge, won a ‘Child of Courage’ citation from the William Keown Trust.
He was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia when he was just over three years old and, for the next four and half years he was in and out of hospital receiving treatment. In fact, when he returned Brookeborough Controlled PS as a P4, it was, his starting year.
But, with the support of family and friends and health professionals, Dylan won through and, today, he is a first year student at Devenish College, studying 16 subjects.
And, there is one other important support, his hens, one of which, ‘Bunny’ secured him the cup for Best Bird in Show at this year’s Fermanagh Show.
Seated at the kitchen table with his mum and dad, Sharon and Wayne at the family home in Skeagh, Maguiresbridge, Dylan spoke easily about his lifetime interest in his feathered friends, and his parents about how he coped with ill-health.
He has an older brother, Darren and sister, Jemma.
His mother explained how his hobby came about: “His granny and granda have hens, and in the year he went into remission, they brought him his first hens.
Today, he has 13. He sees to it they’re fed and watered before he heads off to school and, in the evening, he collects the eggs.”
His dad built a ‘run’ for the hens and explained that his son gives away the eggs to family and friends (including a half dozen to our reporter).
“Some weeks, he would give away 50 or 60, and he’s able to identify what hen laid what egg. from the colour and the shape of the egg.”
While the hens and Dylan’s favourite club, Liverpool FC occupied some of the chat, his mother also recalled the troughs in her son’s battle against cancer.
“He was treated in the Royal Hospital For Sick Children, and at that stage there were only three children in Northern Ireland that had the same form of cancer. Yes, he did well to pull through, but there were times when it was hairy.
“The doctors themselves weren’t too sure whether he was going to come out of it or not, but he’s a good wee fighter.
“He would get an infection and he would be in the Royal for five or six weeks without getting home. One summer he was really unwell, and he went into hospital on 15th June and we didn’t get him home until 9th September.”
Readers may like to know that, at times like that, not only was Dylan unable to walk, he had to be tube fed.
But, having survived, a number of high profile moments came his way, among them a Starlight-sponsored family, three-day, stretch limousine tour of Anfield where Dylan dined with the players and met the then manager, Kenny Dalglish and his favourite player, Dirk Kuyt, that and a memorable trip with dad (only one parent was allowed) to Lapland to see Santa.
But, while he would dearly love to revisit the ‘Pool, Dylan is just as happy among his birds, Flappywing, Holly, Sophie and Peacock, et alii.
And, the craic will surely start when, come the spring, he starts rearing the chicks!
No wonder, this amazing young man wants to be a small animals’ vet!
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