Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

In the UK, every day, five young people are diagnosed with cancer.* Whilst survival for childhood cancer has more than doubled in the last forty years*, it is an incredibly difficult time for young patients and their families to navigate.

Thanks to supporters like you, our staff can deliver world-class care using state-of-the-art equipment. They are able to undertake research to improve our understanding of children’s cancers and how best to treat them, and they are able to provide music, art and play-based therapies to improve the experience of our young patients whilst they are in our hospital.

*Source: Cancer Research UK

Making magic for children with cancer

The Magic Makers are children’s entertainers who visit childern in Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital to bring some relief. They sing, make and play with our young patients and work to bring laughter and joy to the wards. In this video, we talked to them about what it was like to make magic on Ward 86, the Haematology and Oncology unit.

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Anna is 15 years old and has spent most of her young life without any need to ever step foot in a hospital. But in 2022, after suffering from some knee pain, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – bone cancer – in her left leg. This type of cancer is more commonly seen in older children following a rapid growth spurt. Anna loved to dance, so the news came as a huge blow.

Mum Qing referred to the period between diagnosis and treatment as their darkest days. They spent many nights researching what the diagnosis could mean for Anna’s future and it wasn’t until they were referred to an oncologist at our children’s Hospital that they calmed. Anna started on an intensive chemotherapy regime which was bittersweet – losing her long hair was incredibly hard for her. She also had surgery to have a knee and tibia bone prosthesis, but the wound didn’t heal and she needed further surgery to be fitted with an antibotics rod.

Throughout her post-surgery care, Anna was quite poorly and needed a wheelchair. It was during this time that the family felt they could really rely on the staff. Qing said: “The play leaders were always there to make sure Anna had stuff to do. The Hospital School were really helpful too. She’d really missed learning.”

And because Qing spent so much time on the ward with Anna, she found everything they needed was there: “It felt warm and homely every time we came on the ward. The atmosphere on the ward was not sad or depressed, instead parents chatted, sharing their thoughts. It was encouraging and warm.”

Anna is back at school with friends, after missing almost a year. She can walk a short distance with the use of her crutches and still needs a final surgery and a lengthy physiotherapy programme before she is able to walk again unaided. She finished her chemotherapy in April and looks forward to ringing the End of Treatment bell.

Three-year-old Lillianna Loasby first fell ill in 2022, with what doctors thought was a viral infection. After a serious nosebleed and a high temperature, Lillianna was taken to her local hospital and after more tests, she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) – an aggressive form of cancer.

Once transferred to our children’s Hospital, Lillianna started chemotherapy and spent almost seven months as an inpatient. Mum Morgan said they quickly grew accustomed to their surroundings and staff on the ward.

“The hospital became our second home, especially Ward 86. Lillianna became so at home there, she often referred to the room as her bedroom and despite her illness, really loves the children’s hospital and the nurses who looked after her.”

Lillianna especially enjoyed her time with the hospitals Play Specialists and spending time in the rooftop play area. The chance to play outdoors offered her some respite from her treatment. After months of chemotherapy and following further treatment including a lumber puncture, a bone marrow transplant, Lillianna is in remission. Though she is back at home and enjoying time with mum watching Peppa Pig, she still attends hospital regularly for check-ups and treatment.

Hughie is a leukaemia patient at our children’s hospital and his best friend Freddie has stood by him throughout his diagnosis and treatment. During his inpatient stay, one of his favourite days was when he was able to spend time playing outside on the hospital’s rooftop play area.

“It was the first bit of fresh air I’d had in about five or six weeks when I went up there,” said Hughie. “I wasn’t well enough to leave the hospital, so it was such a nice feeling being outside again but knowing I was safe and still in the hospital.”

The area is so-well loved by patients, it has become worn and shabby. After 14 years of happy memories and use by our patients, it needs to be completely overhauled to bring it back to life. So now, Hughie and Freddie are raising money to revamp the rooftop play area at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

When you donate to Hughie and Freddie’s Play Appeal, you will be giving our young patients, including those with childhood cancer like Hughie and Anna, the chance to feel like a child again.

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