Christmas Appeal: Lily's story

“If I had one Christmas wish this year, it would be for us to all remain healthy. Lily wants a pony!”

Lily, who features in The Sun on Sunday’s Christmas appeal, ‘Quids for Kids’, was treated at GOSH for a type of cancer called acute myeloid leukaemia. Her mum, Sam, tells Lily’s story and looks forward to Christmas at home. 

Getting a diagnosis 

“It was early February 2018 and Lily had seemed perfectly well up until then. She woke up with a bit of a sore leg, and she went to school after she’d taken some Calpol. She was in a lot of pain, which worsened throughout the week. 

“After blood tests at our local hospital, our GP called us and said, ‘I don’t want to alarm you, but you need to go straight to the hospital. They are waiting for you to arrive; Lily’s blood results aren’t good.’  

“Chaos ensued in the house as we ran around packing bags and trying to sort out where our older daughter Ruby was going to go. 

“About an hour after we arrived at the hospital, we were pulled out of the room and told by a doctor that they thought Lily had leukaemia. That was the first that we’d heard of it and we were in absolute shock.” 

Coming to GOSH 

“We were told leukaemia required specialist treatment, that Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) would take over her care, and that we would likely go to GOSH after the weekend. An hour later we found out something else had shown up on the test results which meant we needed to go to GOSH immediately.  

“We were blue-lighted to London in an emergency ambulance, very distressed and scared. But as soon as we arrived, the staff took control and took care of us all. We were admitted to Giraffe Ward, and the nurses were superb. They had a really caring approach.” 

Finding a balance 

“During Lily’s first chemotherapy cycle, she spent about 50 days in hospital and I stayed with her. The first cycle was the most gruelling for Lily; she was in a lot of pain and it was very frightening because we didn’t know what to expect.  

“My husband Darren (Lily’s dad) stayed in a hotel at first, then in the family accommodation arranged for us by a fantastic social worker at GOSH. It was so valuable for us as a family, because it meant we could be at the hospital within minutes.  

“By the second cycle, we’d got into a bit of a routine: I would stay a few days in hospital with Lily, then Darren would take over and I would go home to rest. That way Ruby was always being looked after by one of her parents at home, and she could continue going to school, leading a normal 12-year-old girl’s life. It also meant we were managing the intense time in hospital between us. GOSH is a wonderful place, but there are very seriously ill children and very distressed parents around you. It can be quite hard.” 

Help from across the hospital 

“GOSH is a really special place and it’s totally set up to deal with such serious conditions like the one Lily had. 

“Lily is a very sensitive child and because of all the needles and the blood tests through her treatment she developed a phobia of them. The play team have been excellent at preparing Lily using activities like drawing and practising procedures on toys before she has procedures, so she knows what to expect.  

“We were very thankful to have Play Specialists come and spend time with Lily, doing crafts like making unicorn cupcakes, and giving us parents a much-needed break. One lady even set up a ‘cinema’ in Lily’s room with popcorn and pick-and-mix sweets, as Lily was in hospital for her birthday. 

“Lily had a lovely tutor from the hospital school who came in every day, and she had an hour of lessons which she absolutely loved.” 

Lily and family

Home for Christmas 

Now, Lily has finished her treatment at GOSH -- this Christmas she’ll be spending time at home with her family. 

Sam says: “The best thing about Christmas is time to slow down and relax, as a family and also with friends.” Lily adds: “I love pulling crackers, opening presents and sitting down to dinner with family.” 

“If I had one Christmas wish this year,” Sam says, “it would be for us all to remain healthy. Lily wants a pony!” 

While Lily is at home with her family, some children at GOSH will be too ill to leave the hospital over the festive period. “For the children themselves, anything that can help to ease their time in hospital is of immense value and can make a significant difference to their experience while they’re unwell. I think there is no greater gift that someone can give than to help those in need,” Sam says. 

“Sparing a thought for families who are going through incredibly difficult times is such a wonderful, generous and caring thing to do. It can make every difference to those going through the heartbreak and challenges of having a sick child.” 

Lily is one of the stars of The Sun on Sunday’s Christmas appeal, ‘Quids for Kids’. To support the appeal and help more children like Lily, you can donate online at http://www.justgiving.com/campaign/quidsforkids, text KIDSQUIDS to 70970 to donate £5, or donate your spare change at any Premier Inn or McColl’s site. Thank you for your support.