Theodora Children’s Charity
“They lifted her mood when she needed it most”
Chloe Upton, from Eastbourne in East Sussex, reveals how Theodora Children’s Charity helped keep her daughter, Daisy, smiling throughout her cancer treatment
Our daughter, Daisy, has spent more time in hospital than she has at home. Diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was just nine months old, she has endured numerous tests, several rounds of chemotherapy, major surgery and battled sepsis twice – and she’s not yet two. People always ask my husband Ryan and myself how we’ve got through it – and to be honest I’m not sure. We have had the most amazing support – from friends, family and the medical staff, who have been outstanding, putting Daisy at ease and always making sure we understand what’s going on. But it’s Daisy who’s the real hero. Despite all she’s gone through, she still wakes up with a smile for us and loves nothing more than playing with big brother, Theo, who’s four. Of course, she’s had some very low times too – neuroblastoma is a tough cancer to fight and requires a lot of treatment because it’s very stubborn. Daisy had four rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour before they could attempt to remove it. This was particularly tough on her tiny body – after the second round she contracted sepsis, which made her very ill. But, thankfully, it was during this difficult time that the Giggle Doctors from Theodora Children’s Charity stepped in.
Daisy’s treatment took place over six months as an inpatient at The Royal Alexandra Hospital in Brighton, where she was hooked up to the chemotherapy machine on the oncology ward. Every Thursday afternoon, if Daisy was in her room, one of the Giggle Doctors would appear wearing a white coat decorated with funny prints and carrying books and a teddy. You knew when they were coming, as there would be a ripple of delight from the children on the ward. Daisy loved it when the Giggle Doctor sang nursery rhymes and read her stories in an animated voice – her face would break into a grin and she would giggle, before they even started to interact with her properly. They’d always ask her, “Is it OK if I come in?”, as it’s their policy never to approach a child without permission. Of course, Daisy always said yes!
The Giggle Doctors are so professional and committed to entertaining the children. Daisy might be feeling grumpy and upset, but as soon as she saw them coming through the door, her little face would light up. They would sing silly songs, blow bubbles and make balloon animals. I could nip and have a cup of tea and a bit of a break, knowing Daisy was a in good hands and having fun. A nurse would also be present, so I didn’t have to worry at all for a little while.
This was incredibly important to my well-being – I stayed with Daisy in hospital through all her treatments, and being away from Ryan and Theo, sometimes for several months, was so hard. And the worry about her never stopped, of course – we just never knew whether she was going to get through the treatment and what the final outcome would be. So a visit from a Giggle Doctor gave us both a break and a chance to forget our situation for a while.
The Giggle Doctors travel around hospitals up and down the country with the sole purpose of making very sick children happy. They’re very dedicated and play such an important role in helping families with desperately ill children at various stages of treatment.
Thankfully, the chemotherapy did its job for Daisy and shrunk the tumour. After recovering from a second bout of sepsis, on 4 August last year she was able to have surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital to have the remainder of the tumour removed. It was a very difficult procedure and Daisy crashed during the operation when her blood pressure plummeted and her kidney deflated, leaving her on life support for 24 hours. After four weeks in hospital, she was finally discharged at the end of August.
Now approaching her second birthday, Daisy is doing well and has check-ups every three months to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned. It’s too soon for us to fully relax and accept that she is going to be OK, but we take every day as it comes. She has on-going issues and is tube-fed through her stomach, but she continues to be our happy little girl with a sunny nature. She chats away and loves to sing; her favourite song is Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Who knows – maybe we have a future X-Factor contestant in our midst!
TOTAL RAISED: £91,419
- Giggle Doctors are professional performers who are trained to work in medical environments with children with disabilities and illnesses during challenging times.
- An enhanced DBS check is required and Giggle Doctors ask the child for permission before approaching them – it’s one of the few things in hospital that a child can have a say in.
- The team, including Dr Bananas, Dr Dotty and their funny friends, are trained in intensive interaction and a practical approach to helping people with severe learning difficulties.
- It’s all about communication, and the Giggle Doctors explore play – position, movement, mirroring, repetition and eye contact – while having the best fun possible.
- For more information, visit the website uk.theodora.org.
BIG GIVE UPDATE
The money raised from The Candis Big Give will fund visits from Giggle Doctors to 30,000 children undergoing treatment in hospital, helping to distract them from the pain, worry and fear through music, magic and laughter.