Our Mighty Max had an amazing life for eight years. He had such an appetite for life and for fun and that rubbed off on everyone he met. He had an infectious laugh and smile. The focus wasn’t on him being sick because that’s not how he lived and that stays with me now since he has passed away. I have my bad days but 99% of the time, when I think of Max, it’s happy thoughts. I feel like Max puts his arms around me and makes me feel happy, rather than sad.
So many people tell me that Max changed their lives. People really seemed to respond to him, and it showed me how good people can be on this cancer journey.
He got the name Mighty Max because he loved wrestling. Like all kids, he went through the different stages of Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol and then he moved on to wrestling. He had to get a lot of injections and I used to promise him a new character afterwards but that was getting expensive! I had given away my older boy’s wrestling toys so I put a call out on Facebook asking if anyone locally had any WWE characters to sell. It was shared so much that we were inundated and were getting them from all over the world!
They were sent over from America, the Gardaí collected loads for him and presented them to us, he got a special belt made with his name engraved on it. He was convinced he was a big warrior. He had a few opportunities to get into a wrestling ring and the crowd chanted Might Max – he thought he was famous! But his favourite thing was to play wrestling with his dog Buddy. He’d have a wrestling mask on and he’d put one on the dog and they’d roll around.
He hated being bald so, when his hair grew back, he loved having an extreme hairstyle so that people would notice him in a different way.
He loved having a mohawk! He got to experience a few extraordinary things, some through Make a Wish and some organised by ordinary people who were just taken with Max’s story and his personality. When Max was featured on Humans of Longford, a local business man sent us to Lapland to search for Santa, which we never would have been able to afford. Max got to meet some of his favourite wrestlers over the years and even had a FaceTime with John Cena. He was on the set of Vikings and they painted tattoos on the side of his head when he had a mohawk. A woman organised for us to have a pampering session in Dublin, for Max to get his hair dyed and for us to stay in the Shelbourne, where they got the red carpet out for Max. We have so many amazing memories.
Max was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in July 2012, two weeks after his second birthday. He passed away one day after his 8th birthday in 2018.
I know this sounds strange, but I think we were lucky. Maybe blessed is a better word. Max had an amazing life for the eight years he was alive. He was at home with us for the last few weeks of his life and he wasn’t in pain. He was alert and talking right until the end. Everyone got to see him and spend time with him.
Max seemed different that last day but I wasn’t sure if this was it. He used to joke with my sister and ask her for a ‘flavour’ instead of a favour, but she never got to find out what the last ‘flavour’ he asked her for was. Max’s Dad was holding him when he died and I had my hand on his heart.
The few days after that were so important for our family and for Max’s siblings. I feel lucky that I had made so many friends when Max was in treatment. Unfortunately, some of those children passed away but having that network of women around me who had lost kids, meant that I knew what I wanted for Max and that really helped. He reposed on the couch and his sister gave him foot massages, which he had really enjoyed when he was sick.
Max is my favourite subject – I could talk about him all day long and I want it to be a celebration. When my friends come into the house, they say hi to Max (his ashes are on the mantlepiece) and we talk about him all the time. It’s not easy – people asking me how many kids I have is like a kick in the stomach, but since he passed away, I have really tried to celebrate his life, rather than grieve his death.
We recently had some concrete redone at the back of the house and I wrote Max’s name in it before it dried. We moved here after Max died so he was never in this house, but he is always with us.