Harris gets ready to ring his bell

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Little Harris McGougan reaches a mighty milestone tomorrow when three years of cancer treatment finally ends and he rings a bell to celebrate.

Covid called time on cancer patients being allowed to ring the traditional bell in hospitals at the end of their treatment, but Harris’s family were not going to let the pandemic stop them marking the long-awaited occasion.

Undeterred, Harris’s mum Shannon MacDonald put out an appeal across Oban to find  a venue to ring his bell and Cuan Mor in George Street offered to help.

The bell he will ring has been specially made for him as a keepsake and is inscribed with the same poem as would have been on the hospital one.

Tomorrow, keeping to virus guidelines, close family and friends will gather for a brief but unforgettable bell ringing ceremony ready to get back to normal life with a brighter future to look forward to.

One of the highlights will be a trip to Disneyland Florida made possible by the community’s support when in 2019 a bonfire and fireworks night in Dunbeg raised £3,550.

Harris, who started at Rockfield Primary School in August, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when he was just two.

Since then his family have battled through it, spending a year at the children’s cancer hospital in Glasgow then making monthly trips for ‘maintenance’ treatment by the specialists and visiting Oban hospital every two weeks for blood levels to be checked. Harris has also had to take chemo tablets every night before bed.

‘It was a terrible year that first year. It was all a big whirlwind, the craziest and most awful time – I can’t put it in words,’ said Shannon who also lost a young cousin in a tragic accident during the same 12 months.

‘We’ve made it to this stage now when his treatment finishes and we’re so excited to be here. It’s a day we thought would never come. Harris will keep getting his blood checked over the next five years but fingers-crossed he will stay well.

‘It has been a tough three years, more than three years, and we couldn’t have done it without family and the community of Oban and friends who have been with us all the way along, showing support and love. They are all incredible and we want to say a big thank you.

‘The last few months through lockdown has made life even more difficult. It was scary at first worrying about how covid could put Harris at risk because his immune system was so low but he will get stronger now. Because he’ll be able to come off his steroids, his mood swings will also settle. We’re just looking forward to doing more things that we couldn’t do before. We don’t know when we’ll be able to go but we can’t wait for Disneyland,’ she added.

Caption: Shannon MacDonald with son Harris, 5, younger son Hunter, 2, and grandma Lyn Ferguson.