Isla and her twin sister, Lottie, have a close bond. But in the summer of 2016, while Lottie was starting to run around, Isla seemed lethargic in comparison. Isla’s parents, Anna and Rick, recall how Isla just wanted to sleep. They took her to the doctors and were told that Isla most likely had a viral infection.
But when a lump became visible on her face, Isla’s parents took her back to the local GP. She was diagnosed with mumps. Rick and Anna were warned that it was highly contagious and that it was likely that her brother and sister would also get it. When they didn’t, and the mass kept growing, they took Isla back to the GP. It was the day before Isla and Lottie’s 1st birthday.
At the hospital, Isla underwent various scans and the following day, they were given the devastating news that the mass on Isla’s face was, in fact, a tumour. They were taken by ambulance to Great Ormond Street Hospital where it was confirmed that Isla had stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma.
Scans and tests revealed that Isla had four tumours; the largest of which was 9cm long in her adrenal gland, resting on her kidney. She also had a tumour on her face, one in her ribs and a small one on her leg.
Isla’s chemotherapy regime began the next day and whilst the side effects were severe, by January 2017, three of her tumours had disappeared. The tumour nearest her kidney had shrunk enough for surgery to go ahead to try to remove what was left. After a seven-hour operation, Rick and Anna were delighted to hear that the entire tumour had been removed.
More intensive treatment followed including high-dose chemotherapy with a stem cell transplant. Isla broke her leg twice because the treatment left her bones so weak. Isla also endured 14 sessions of radiotherapy under a general anaesthetic over a three-week period. She then went on to receive six months of immunotherapy.
Following immunotherapy, Isla’s parents decided that the best treatment for their little girl would be the bivalent vaccine clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Their successful appeal for £155,000 meant the family travelled in March 2018 for the first stage of treatment, and returned four more times, with Isla completing the trial in March 2019.
In January 2023, Isla and her family celebrated her reaching a big milestone - five years cancer-free!
Solving Kids' Cancer UK's children's fundraising campaigns
Funds raised will go towards helping Isla and her family. If Isla no longer needs the funds or is in remission five years post the end of successful treatment, the funds will be used to support other children and families affected by neuroblastoma through our activities. For children with high-risk neuroblastoma, like Isla, the survival rate is much lower than other childhood cancers. Upon relapse, this rate reduces even further.