“Having been through it, we see so many stories of children fighting neuroblastoma. We just want to give people hope now,” says Chris and Rona Macaskill, parents to nearly-teenage Phoebe.
In September every year the back-to-school routine happens across the country. New shoes, new stationary, bigger uniforms. To most parents, it’s a chore. To parents of children affected by neuroblastoma – an aggressive and devastating childhood cancer – it’s something entirely different.
We always think of the beautiful children who aren’t starting a new school year. Either they’re battling and going through treatment, or have sadly passed away. But Phoebe’s story is one of almost ten years in remission, a story of parents who had dreamt of their child starting school and will never take it for granted.
Phoebe was one of the first children to fundraise with Solving Kids’ Cancer (previously the 2 Simple Trust). She was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma at the age of 2 – it had spread to her lymph nodes, bone marrow and 95% of her bones. She was given a 20% chance of survival.
Her treatment plan consisted of initial chemotherapy, stem cell harvest and transplant, surgery, high dose chemotherapy, radiotherapy and differentiation treatment – six months of Retinoic Acid to restrain the abnormally fast growth of cancer cells.
During stem cell treatment Phoebe developed a life-threatening chest infection, and without an immune system to fight it, she spent 15 days in intensive care. As her condition slowly became more stable, doctors were concerned that she was not reacting as expected and may have some brain damage. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and a month later Phoebe was walking and talking again.
Phoebe responded amazingly well to the rest of her treatment and completed it in May 2009.
Starting high school
In late August 2018, Phoebe started high school in Scotland, a huge milestone for her and her family. She plays the trumpet in a brass band, loves swimming and meets her friends to go shopping and watch movies at the cinema.
“She’s doing amazing! No side-effects at all,” says Rona. “She’s growing up after a fight with cancer and has the battle scars to prove it.”
“When we were told she only had a 20% chance our hearts sank and we feared the worst. Looking back now we believe we were upheld through it all by our faith in God. It’s amazing she is here now.”
Like any parents of a child in remission, there is always the worry the cancer will return: “We lived in fear of it. If she was ever ill we would get scared, but slowly and surely over the years we have relaxed, especially recently.”
“She’s visited by a consultant every six months, but I can’t remember the last time we went to the doctors with her about anything else.”
Solving Kids’ Cancer fights for a future where no child dies of neuroblastoma or suffers through treatment and beyond. We’re working so every child affected by neuroblastoma goes back to school every September.