A seven-year-old girl from Slaithwaite who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer after falling from a baby gate has been recognised with a special national award.
Lily Folan started to limp following a fall from a baby gate she was swinging on last July. As the days wore on her limp became worse and her mum Imogen feared Lily had fractured her leg.
Now, for the courage she showed throughout her treatment, Lily has received a Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award, run in partnership with TK Maxx.
Following the fall, Lily should have been going to Turkey on holiday with her dad Kieran. But Imogen was concerned that if her leg was fractured, it would get worse by going on holiday and she might end up being hospitalised in Turkey.
Instead, Imogen called the GP who told her to take Lily to Accident and Emergency for an x-ray.
An x-ray at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax in August showed Lily’s shin, but it looked like a cloud and she was immediately sent to the children’s ward for an MRI.
Within just an hour, Imogen was told that Lily had a high grade and aggressive type of cancer called osteosarcoma which can spread quickly but had been found at an early stage.
The news was a particular blow as Imogen’s mum was going through treatment for breast cancer.
Lily was referred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital where she underwent a biopsy. She then had chemotherapy for 10 weeks at Leeds Children’s Hospital during which her hair fell out and she lost a lot of weight.
It was discovered the cancer had spread, so surgeons had to do a bigger operation than they had originally planned.
On December 11, Lily underwent surgery at Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital where surgeons took her fibia out and used some of her tibia and a donor bone to graft it all together – a full tibia reconstruction.
Imogen and Lily received the best ever Christmas present when she was allowed home on December 18.
Lily, who attends Slaithwaite C of E Junior and Infant School, now has a purple cast on her leg and has to go back to hospital in a few weeks for an x-ray.
She still also faces another 20 cycles of chemotherapy this year in Leeds.
Mum Imogen Hetherington, who works as a hairdresser, said: “I remember when they told me it was cancer. I felt absolutely sick. It was like a scene in a film when people are told bad news and throw up – that’s how I felt.
“During the chemotherapy, it was absolutely awful. Lily was really, really poorly. She had mouth sores and slept a lot.
“We are so, so proud of Lily and the bravery she has shown. She has done really well. She has a phobia of needles and is scared when she is in the hospital, but she has a strong pain threshold and has been very brave. The hospital staff have been very good with her too.”
Lily said: “I was so excited to go home for Christmas and had a brilliant time. I have also managed to get in my wheelchair all by myself.”
There are around 150 new cases of cancer in children each year in Yorkshire and the Humber and the Star Awards, and stories like Lily’s, shine a light on the unique challenges still faced by children like her.
Every child nominated for an award receives the accolade, which is backed by a host of famous faces, including celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, TV personality Dr Ranj and children’s TV favourite Mister Maker.
There is no judging panel because the charity believes every child diagnosed with cancer deserves special recognition. The awards are open to all children under 18 who live in the UK and have been treated for the disease within the past five years.
As well as a star shaped trophy, Lily also received a £50 TK Maxx gift card, t-shirt and a certificate signed by the celebrities.
Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Yorkshire, Jane Bullock, said: “Lily is a real star who has been through so much at such a young age. It has been an absolute privilege to be able to celebrate her courage with a Star Award.
“Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults, from the types of cancer to the impact of treatment – and many youngsters may experience serious long-term side effects. That’s why we’re supporting dedicated research to ensure more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life.
“We’re urging people in Yorkshire to nominate inspirational children like Lily for a Star Award now, so that many more affected by this devastating disease can receive the acknowledgement they so richly deserve.”
St James’s University Hospital in Leeds is one of the many centres taking part in groundbreaking clinical trials co-ordinated by Cancer Research UK’s Children’s Cancer Trials Team. These trials make innovative new treatments available to children with cancer across the region.
To nominate a star visit cruk.org/starawards