Special Reunion Event For Young Cancer Patients
A group of British children who received pioneering cancer treatment in America came together in Chesterfield for a special reunion.
More than 300 people were at the event - which was the first of this scale in the UK - with patients, aged between three and 20, and their families from around the country attending.
National charity Kids 'n' Cancer UK, based in Chesterfield, co-ordinated the reunion of around 50 youngsters who have received proton therapy treatment at either the ProCure Proton Therapy Centre in Oklahoma City or the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville.
The families attended a special dinner at the Casa Hotel, Chesterfield, and the following day joined in the celebrations at the Chesterfield and Derbyshire Marathon, which took place at Queen's Park.
Kids 'n' Cancer was formed four years ago and has so far helped 70 children to receive life-saving Proton Therapy treatment in the USA. The charity also helps to fund living and accommodation for patients who receive government funding for their treatment.
"Our ultimate aim is to see proton therapy in the UK"
The charity works closely with the centres and the NHS in this country to support families whose youngsters have been approved to receive treatment in the States. Children benefiting from proton therapy are from around the UK, including Rugby, Bridlington, Rochdale, Sheffield, Nottingham and Maidenhead.
One of the children to attend the event was six-year-old Dylan Fleming, from Mosborough in Sheffield.
Dylan was just two when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He underwent a round of chemotherapy but his mum, Sue (36), was told by specialists at Sheffield Children's Hospital that he would benefit from proton therapy treatment in the US.
Just 12 days later, Dylan flew to the ProCure Proton Therapy Centre, spending nine weeks in the US undergoing the pioneering treatment. On returning to the UK, his mum was told that the treatment had been a success and the tumour on his bladder had shrunk by half. After undergoing further chemotherapy, the tumour cleared.
Dylan has now been in remission for two years and attends Sheffield Children's Hospital every four months for tests.
Another guest at the event was four year old Lilly Gillon from Birmingham, who was the first patient to be supported by Kids 'n' Cancer.
In 2011, Lilly was 15-months-old when she was diagnosed with ependymoma - a rare reoccurring brain tumour that affects just one in 68 million people. She underwent surgery to remove the tumour but her parents, Graham (36) and Cherie (27), were told that her condition was terminal.
However, the family was told that Lilly would benefit from proton therapy and soon travelled to the US so Lilly could undergo the specialist treatment. However, the NHS were only able to pay for Lilly and one parent to fly to the US, so Kids 'n' Cancer raised funds to ensure Graham could join his daughter and wife.
Lilly's condition remains terminal but her parents have said that the therapy has given her a better quality of life.
Cancer Paediatrician Dr Andrew L. Chang from the ProCure Proton Therapy Centre said:
"We are privileged to work with Kids 'n' Cancer, which does such fantastic work to support the patients we treat, and their families.
"Coming to Chesterfield has been amazing. We have got to spend time with the charity and the children we have treated. It is great to see them running around, being happy and doing the things that normal children should be doing.
"Our goal and desire is to help and treat our patients with proton beam therapy and give them the best life possible. Working with Kids 'n' Cancer helps us to achieve this."
Kids 'n' Cancer not only helps pay towards the cost of the treatment in some cases, but it also provides funds to allow members of the child's family to be with them in America for three months - which is the usual treatment period, before they fly back to the UK.
Dr Michael Confer, radiation oncologist from the ProCure Proton Therapy Centre, added:
"I have four kids myself and if the roles were reversed I can't imagine not being able to have my family with me at a time like that.
"Families need support and to stay together in a difficult situation like experiencing a child being diagnosed with cancer and Kids 'n' Cancer helps to ensure this happens."
Mike Hyman, founder of Kids 'n' Cancer UK, said:
"We are delighted to see the children and their families come together for this special reunion event to help us showcase the benefits of proton therapy. I'd also like to say a huge thank you to both Dr Chang and Dr Confer for travelling from the US to join us in our celebrations.
"At Kids 'n' Cancer we work tirelessly to ensure we can make a difference to young cancer patients, and their families, who can benefit significantly from this form of treatment. Each and every one of the children we have helped access this pioneering treatment is alive today, which is incredible.
"Our ultimate aim is to see proton therapy in the UK to enable patients to access the treatment with fewer patients having to travel abroad."
The Chesterfield-based charity has also offered a helping hand to the family of Ashya King. The five-year-old, who is seriously ill with brain cancer, underwent proton therapy last week at a Proton Therapy Centre in Prague.
For more information about Kids 'n' Cancer visit www.kidsncancer.org.uk or call 01246 236566.
For more information about the ProCure Proton Therapy Centre in Oklahoma City visit www.procure.com
For more information about the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville visit www.floridaproton.org.
Special Reunion Event For Young Cancer Patients, 23rd September 2014, 16:16 PM