By Andy Hirst

A very special little girl has a very special message for everyone who has helped her battle an aggressive cancer.

Less than two years ago Eden Smith was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma which triggered months of gruelling treatment which has ultimately been successful but the only way to try to stop it coming back is to get specialist treatment in New York.

That would be costly, Eden’s family needed support and Huddersfield rallied round like it had never done before, raising more than half-a-million pounds to fund the cost of the treatment in New York now and in the years ahead.

It means hundreds of people were involved in the fundraising with tens of thousands donating at some point – care and kindness on a grand scale.

Seven-year-old Eden, of Wooldale, is now in New York with her family undergoing the treatment but insisted on sending this message back home to everyone who has helped her along the way by fundraising, donating and supporting the family in so many other ways.

She said: “I just want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has given me this chance to come to New York for this treatment. ‘Thank you’ seem such small words but they come from my heart – I just wouldn’t be here without everyone helping.

“I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and I wish everyone good health in 2023.”

The neuroblastoma Eden was diagnosed with in April 2021 is a rare and aggressive childhood cancer that has a 40% to 50% chance of long-term survival at diagnosis and affects fewer than 100 children in the UK every year. Scans and tests showed the cancer was in seven places around Eden’s body.

She completed gruelling chemotherapy, had a major nine-hour operation then stem cell treatment involving a 35-day isolation stay in hospital, radiotherapy and immunotherapy. To prevent the cancer returning Eden now needs pioneering Bivalent Vaccine treatment which is only available in New York.

Eden flew there with her dad, Lee, earlier in December and they have now been joined by mum Jen and 10-year-old sister Tia so the family will be together at Christmas.

Lee admitted: “It’s the first time me and Eden have done two weeks together. We are untidy, cheeky and downright not disciplined enough to spend too much time together! The last two weeks have been filled with late nights, too many take outs and general mayhem in New York.”

The treatment had to start within 40 days of the all-clear scans which is why it needs to happen now. Eden needs three vaccinations over 28 days and she’s just had her second.

Lee said: “The injection hurts really badly but only for around 15 minutes but she’s a battler and coping well with the burning sensation of the vaccine going in.

“Injection number three is in a week’s time and then we will be heading home. There can be lots of side effects like fever, rashes and headaches but Eden was fine after the first jab so we are crossing our fingers for the same this time.”

The treatment was originally due to last five years but Lee revealed it has now come down to three with Eden needing to make four trips in the first year, two in the second and one in the third. Once this first month-long trip is done the others will be between five and seven days.

The treatment will cost around £230,000 but the massive fundraising effort has brought in £502,000 with the money also needed for flights and accommodation over the coming years. There will be more fundraisers next year.

Members of the Northern Fitness Gym in Linthwaite set themselves a target to raise £50,000 and have actually reached £70,000.

Lee said: “The way people have rallied round to help us is unbelievable. I kind of ran out of the words to say thank you after a couple of months as people’s generosity and the hard work by fundraisers has left us lost for words to express our immense gratitude.”

Now Eden has had the all-clear the chances of the cancer not coming back has risen to 80% and the New York treatment will increase those chances even further.

Jen added: “The last year and a half have been the most frightening of our lives. The worst is hopefully behind us but, as I learn more each day, we still have a very long and uncertain battle ahead.”

* Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting. Copyright Andy Hirst.