NEWS

‘Amazing Grace’ - a young girl who leaves a remarkable legacy

A remarkable story about an amazing young woman

Michelle NicPhaidin

Reporter:

Michelle NicPhaidin

Email:

michelle.nicphaidin@donegaldemocrat.com

‘Amazing Grace’ - a young girl who leaves a remarkable legacy

Beautiful Grace Fischer, 17, who bravely battled with cancer from the tender age of 15, sadly passed away in her mother’s arms in her beloved town of Glenties last year.
In response to this tragedy, the community of Glenties, that Grace missed so much, and was proud to call her people, have decided to run a few events to help with the expenses that her family incurred during her illness.
Grace who had the voice of an angel, like her mother Libby, would be proud to know that a wonderful musical will take place in her memory. The all-star cast are working very hard on doing justice to Grace’s brave fight and to her memory.
The musical is called “I believe in Angels in Memory of Grace Fischer” and will be held in the Glenties Community Centre on the 22, 23 and 24 of March.
There will also be a dance in the Highlands Hotel on March 2 and the fabulous Keltic Kaos will take to the stage on that occasion.

The Background
The story of Grace Fischer begins with a young happily married couple.
Her dad, Florian, was born in Germany and moved to Ireland in the eighties with his parents when he was only three years old.
Not that much later in life he met his future wife Elizabeth Mannering, who lived only a few kilometres away from him in the Glen of Glenties.
They went to school together in their teens and after many attempts by Florian, love finally blossomed.
They were married aged 21 and had 5 children, four boys John, Max, Gabriel and Elijah and one beautiful girl called Grace. Grace was the second child in their family and their only daughter.

Grace loved Glenties
Her aunt Rose Mannering has fond memories of their living in Glenties:
She said:“They lived in Glenties, their hometown. The children went to Scoil Mhuire national school and the eldest went to Glenties Comprehensive which was the very place their parents’ love began.”
Grace spent a good part of her childhood roaming the Glen of Glenties with her cousins up behind her maternal grandparents’ houses. She loved horses and spent many a day with her paternal grandmother Margit at the stables that looked over the Glen.

leaving Glenties
Sadly Rose recalls that after the crash in 2008, The Fischer family reluctantly decided to move to Germany in hope of better financial security, searching only for a brighter future for their young family.
She said: “It was a very sad time for them all when they had to leave their family and friends.”
Time passed, they settled as best they could into a new life and culture, the children picked up the language and did well. They all missed home terribly and came back to Glenties as often as possible.
Rose recalls: “It was on one of these visits that Grace mentioned, while strolling in shallows of the tide on a warm September afternoon on her favourite beach, Narin Strand, that she had a bit of a sore throat.”
Her mother Libby became exceptionally worried when she felt a hard lump in Grace's throat. On her return to Germany Grace was brought, to the doctor, against her will because she wanted to return to school.
They had come to Ireland to see her aunt Rose in the hope she would have her baby while they were there. The baby was born two days after they left. It was a happy time, but it was to be short lived.

Cancer
“The doctor discovered a mass in Grace's throat and ordered a biopsy. Unfortunately, the doctors discovered that the mass was Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Cancer at 15 years old,” Rose said.
During this biopsy they damaged one of Grace's vocal chords and she could not sing, this was to be the first of many trials for this talented young girl.
The rest of this story is one of beauty, trial and triumph.

battle for life
The doctors could not operate due to the positions of the tumours around her heart and in her throat. They began chemo and Grace soldiered through it, remaining upbeat and positive. When her beautiful long dark hair began to fall out, she shaved it off with a smile on her face as did all her family, including Libby her mother.
The trials continued and the sickness came and went, Grace kept fighting. Her parents did everything they could to comfort her as they watched in horror at times, but they all kept fighting and finally the cancer was going into remission. The entire family began to look to the future again. But after only a few weeks an observant consultant spotted a tiny mark on a scan and asked for it to be checked. This resulted in major surgery due to the position of this tiny mark. To the family's horror the cancer had returned in only two weeks and was more aggressive than before.

Intense treatment

This time the treatment was going to be even more intense, stronger chemo, radiation treatment and a stem cell transplant. Family members got checked to see if they were a match, they were not close enough. They found a perfect stem cell match in Grace’s brave little brother Gabriel who was 10 at the time. Brave Gabriel donated one litre of bone marrow over the course of her treatment. It was a painful process and he became really sick.
Grace spent a long time in isolation as the treatment had reduced her immune system to nothing. Her family could visit but not for very long and had to be sterile and wear masks and sterile scrubs. It was very difficult time for all of them especially Grace.
Grace through enduring all this sickness began to grow up. She started to change into a beautiful young woman. She had the usual interests of all young girls of that age, make up, music, fashion, friends and of course boys. She described herself as a ‘blank canvas’ and was exceptional at applying make-up. Nurses, and patients often asked her to do their make-up which she did with a great generosity of spirit.

Great sense of humour

She spent as much time as she could at home and often argued with doctors to get home to be with her family. She saw things differently to most 16-year-olds. She often posted wise words on her Instagram account with beautiful photos. She loved nature and family and all things wholesome. She wrote beautiful poems about her Dad and was a dab hand at all things artistic. She also took humour out of her illness and often teased people when they complained about their problems. She’d say: “Ah well at least ye don’t have cancer!” She’d laugh when her cousins and friends got spots and say “I'm too sterile to have even a blemish. There’s no bacteria in me.”
“She spoke the truth, she was so beautiful inside and out, with a soft voice, beautiful skin and these huge big blue sparkly eyes also inherited from her mother, Libby,” Rose said.

Beating cancer
After a very long treatment and many days of isolation and an indescribably gruelling emotional and physical treatment the cancer began to go. The months went on and Grace began to regain strength.
The side effects of the treatment got her down from time to time but she just kept going. She was gradually getting better. After 18 months the scans showed that Grace had finally defeated cancer.
Still shaken, the family began to rejoice. This nightmare was over. Grace started making plans to come home to Ireland. She was always making plans. She’d beaten cancer for the second time.
Rose recalled: “However, on a scheduled appointment a short time later, they discovered that the cancer had relapsed. There are no words to describe how Grace and her entire family felt. Grace and her family decided to not lose hope and now the doctors were using unusual methods to help save Grace.” But it was Grace who again faced the fight with a positive attitude. The chemo was no longer working, and the cancer was too aggressive. They stopped the chemo and used a less perfect stem cell treatment, immunotherapy in the hope that it would work. The immunotherapy was something that hadn't tried before and it worked.

Surrounded by love

She returned for a check-up and this time the cancer was almost gone.
She began to get better again, without chemo, her strength was returning. She made plans to return to Ireland to surprise her cousin Niamh for her 18th birthday. She worked hard on her health and got the all clear to go to Ireland. As she made that journey to Donegal, she sighed, looking out the bus window, she whispered to her mother that this was indeed God's own country.
As she walked into Niamh's 18th birthday party in Glenties she was almost rugby tackled by everyone at the party who knew her. There were screams of joy and many hugs. Tears of joy and disbelief flowed down her family’s faces. It was a moment that will never be forgotten. As her friends danced the night away, Grace paused looked at her mother Libby and spoke to her about the feeling of being truly loved and surrounded by love.

Tears of Joy

She visited the baby she had never got to meet and found her new cousin looked like her as a child. Grace had brought her some toy horses from her own collection.
She stayed with her cousins for a sleepover and even got back to her beautiful Narin beach on the Sunday. She just sat on the bench and cried tears of joy.
Grace and her cousins had planned to head to Pennys the next day. Grace couldn’t wait to spend every penny she had there as there is no Pennys in Germany.
All seemed well.

Passes away
The next day early in the morning as her mother made tea for Grace and her cousins as they prepared for the trip to Letterkenny, a complication arose with the stent in Grace’s chest, she did not pass away from cancer. Her mother and her mother’s friend Louise tried to do everything they could to save her, as did the emergency services and the doctor.
Libby had been on the phone to Florian who stayed on the phone with Grace as she passed away.
Grace passed away on October 1, 2018 cradled in her mother’s arms. She was buried in her beloved Glen of Glenties just a few days later.
Grace’s cousin Grainne, also a singer, and her very talented friends, decided to respond in the most positive way they could think of by doing a wonderful musical in Grace’s memory.

To pledge your support, please go to: https://www.gofundme.com/graces-story?teamInvite=9yNUGozRtniEHlqeLZth1ia92emn3HUuNp4JGDUizt1knsTMle5532wudcLUp3yQ