Milton Keynes parents launch emotional appeal to save the life of their five-year-old daughter
The little girl was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour wrapped around her heart
The parents of a brave five-year-old are raising money to give her the best chance of beating the childhood cancer neuroblastoma.
Little Poppy Bailey was given a 40 to 50 per cent chance of long-term survival when she was diagnosed with high-risk Stage 4 cancer just weeks before her fifth birthday.
A large tumour at the back of her chest cavity had wrapped around her heart, pushing against one of her lungs, and the cancer cells had spread all over her body.
Since then, Poppy has endured 13 rounds of chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy and is taking part in clinical trials with the hope of clearing the cancer.
But high-risk neuroblastoma is a particularly aggressive and complex cancer to treat, and sadly, the disease returns in almost 50 per cent of children. If this happens, less than one in ten will survive.
Poppy's parents Claire and Ross are raising money for further treatment, abroad if necessary, to get their daughter into remission and keep the cancer away. This could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Meanwhile they have spent much of the past 10 months taking it in turns to be in and out of hospital with Poppy, who loves to pretend to be the 'nurse in charge' at the hospital and even has her own ID card.
Claire, who gave birth to Poppy's brother Oscar shortly before the earth-shattering diagnosis, said: “We rarely get to spend time together as a whole family, but when we do those moments are precious. I have continued to breastfeed Oscar, spending lots of time expressing milk while in hospital with Poppy. It's exhausting."
Covid restrictions mean only one parent could be with Poppy at any time.
“Despite everything, Poppy stays happy, caring and cheeky and makes everyone laugh wherever she goes," said Claire.
"We’re so proud of her inner strength and resilience at having to cope with things that no child should ever have to go through."
The family's nightmare began in April last year when Poppy, who normally loves playing in the park and anything to do with Rapunzel, Elsa or Moana, started complaining of pain in her legs, was increasingly more tired and lethargic and gradually started eating less.
She became clingy and depressed. Her family, who live near Olney, put down to jealousy and confusion as she'd just become a big sister and the world was in lockdown due to the Covid pandemic.
As the leg pain got worse, Poppy’s mum Claire contacted the GP and had a telephone appointment due to Covid restrictions. A blood test was arranged at Bedford Hospital in which an iron deficiency was confirmed. A few days later the family were told their GP wanted to see Poppy in person as he was concerned after reviewing her blood test results in more detail.
After checking her over, they were then sent to see a paediatrician at Bedford Hospital straight away for more tests and scans. A chest X-ray finally revealed a large tumour at the back left-hand side of Poppy’s chest cavity, wrapped around her heart and pushing against one of her lungs. Her parents were told straight away it was cancer.
“Our world came crashing down around us in seconds, unable to comprehend what was happening. We refused to believe it at first, insisting that our little girl who's always been the picture of health couldn't possibly have cancer,” said Claire.
Poppy and her dad were sent in an ambulance that night to Addenbrookes while mum Claire stayed at home with baby Oscar.
“I didn't sleep a wink that night, it was the worst night of my life,” she said.
A biopsy and scans revealed that the cancer had spread all over her body and Poppy was officially diagnosed with stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma on July 24, just weeks before her fifth birthday.
Treatment began immediately, with side effects such as sickness and hair loss. She had one of her ovaries removed and preserved for the future and a stem cell harvest for future use. She's also had countless general anaesthetics, injections, bone marrow biopsies, CT scans and MIBG scans and relies on tube feeds as her main source of nutrition as her appetite has decreased and she often feels nauseous.
Radiation treatment Poppy had at UCLH required her to be in an isolation room for 10 days with only minimal
contact allowed with her parents.
The treatments have cleared a lot of the cancer cells but not enough yet to move onto the next stage, which will require surgery, high-dose chemotherapy with stem-cell rescue, radiotherapy and immunotherapy.
After that comes the nail-biting wait to see if the cancer returns. But if it does, the family is determined to be prepared to explore the best treatments the world can offer.
“We will do anything we can to give Poppy the bright future that she deserves,” says Claire.
She and Ross are running their fundraising campaign through the charity Solving Kids' Cancer and family members are planning to kickstart it with a charity bike ride.
You can support Poppy's campaign by donating through her special fundraising page here or by texting ‘POPPYB’ to 70085 followed by any whole amount up to £20.
It is hoped schools, groups and individuals will help by organising their own events. They can download a poster here to advertise their event. There is also a special campaign poster, or if it's a sponsored event, people download sponsorship forms here.