“HE was my number one wingman, best man at my wedding and best friend. I loved my son.”
These are the touching words of Rathfriland man, Hammy Truesdale to describe his only son Cameron who passed away after the bravest battle with cancer.
Hammy paid tribute to his “selfless and courageous” son yesterday (Monday) just a day after mourners gathered to pay their respects as Cameron was laid to rest in the grounds of Donaghcloney Elim Church.
The 13-year-old from Waringstown was diagnosed in January 2017 with a rare DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) brain tumour.
Cameron’s family were told the only treatment available on the NHS was radiotherapy and he only had nine months to live.
However, the youngster courageously fought his cancer battle for 20 months and passed away peacefully last Wednesday (5 September) at home in the arms of his mum and dad.
In a bid to do all they could for their much-loved son, Cameron's parents, Hammy and Cassandra (Cassie) Finnegan discovered a treatment in Mexico where patients with the same condition were seeing positive results.
And so a fundraising campaign called 'Cure4Cam' began and thanks to a massive outpouring of support from locals, Cameron was able to proceed with treatment in Angeles Valle Oriente hospital.
Cameron with his dad Hammy, little sister Chloe and step mum Cheryl.
The tumour was shrinking thanks to the treatment but in May the family received news that this was no longer the case and an MRI scan confirmed their worst fears that his tumour had progressed.
Hammy opened his heart to The Outlook yesterday (Monday) and he wanted to highlight Cameron's battle over the last 20 months to show what it was like living with cancer on a daily basis.
He also wanted to send a message to families, and especially men, who are going through the same thing that “it's okay to talk.”
He said: “In some ways talking about what happened makes you a better man and also prepares you for what lies ahead.
“Cameron laid me a foundation on Sunday at his funeral and I now need to start rebuilding my life on top of the foundation he gave me.
“I won't waste a single day of it and he will always be with me. I have his name and date of birth tattooed on the inside of my arm and 'Cure4Cam' has been tattooed on the outside.”
Hammy spoke about his “selfless and courageous son” and how he has him to thank for turning him into a man.
“There are moments in your life that change you and take you on different paths, Cameron's birth was one of them. I became a daddy at 19 and Cameron took me from boyhood to manhood, just like that.
“He stamped all over my heart when he was born. My heart is divided into thirds. One third for Cameron, a third for my daughter Chloe and a third for my wife Cheryl. Cameron's third has now been ripped out.”
The Rathfriland man says as he sat thinking of the hobbies Cameron had and his interests, it dawned on him these weren't actually his favourite hobbies – his family was his life.
He added: “Cameron loved being with his family and was devoted to his sisters, Chloe, Courtney and Caitlin.
“Although he was a quiet wee man to a degree, Cameron had a cheeky wee streak and was very witty and quick off the mark and had a great sense of humour too.
“He just doted on his mummy and got into lots of trouble with me, I mean lots of trouble . He went farming with David, his step daddy and came up with the weirdest ideas and things to do with Cheryl, his step mum. What a man he was! He was selfless and pure and had a love for us all.”
Hammy says although Cameron never fully asked the extent of his illness, but probably knew how ill he was, he always wanted to help other children with the disease.
His family decided to donate Cameron's tumour to try and progress medical research into DIPG.
“We just thought it fitting to donate the tumour because we want to find a cure for hope in the UK for families that they don't have the stresses and pressures that we have had.
“We were not only battling the illness, but also battling to find an option. We wanted to make sure Cameron's tumour would give families across the UK the chance to fight this disease at home.
“Cameron always said he wanted to make sure other kids didn’t have to go through this all and have no options. He always was so thoughtful.”
Hammy says it was the small things he shared with his son that really were the big things in their life together and provided the most memories.
“We loved watching the wrestling together and every year we would have had a wrestle mania party that would have gone on into the wee hours of the morning.
“He was also the best man at my wedding. What more do I need to say? He was my wingman, best friends and all my hobbies I did with him too.”
The father and son had a shared love for Downshire Guiding Star band where Hammy has been a member for six years.
Members from the Banbridge-based band formed a guard of honour in the driveway of Cameron's mother's home as they left for his funeral service and again as they left the church.
Hammy said: “I will never, ever leave that band and if someone ever wanted to join a band, then join my one because they will be joining a group of people that go above and beyond for one another and will be friends for life.
“Our band's home town parade is this Friday night (14 September) in Banbridge and it is the band's first parade since Cameron passed away and they are playing a tribute to him. I know it will be an emotional night for everyone.”
Hammy also spoke about his son's lasting legacy, adding: “Cameron healed the family, he united a community, he connected hands across a divide and he inspired thousands of people around the world with his strength, courage and love. He will never be forgotten.”