Lois was just nine years old when she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia on 28th June 2019. It’s a day that will forever be etched in the minds of Lois and her family; it came totally out of the blue and left the whole family feeling like “the bottom had dropped out of their world”. Here, Lois’s mum tells their story and how, with the help of Momentum Children’s Charity, they have been able to keep moving forward.
“Lois was such a healthy child. She never had a day off school and was always busy socially with activities like Stagecoach, cubs, choir, swimming and dancing. When she got ill with what was diagnosed as a severe throat infection, and then a few days later a rash which started to spread across her arms, we assumed it was nothing more than chickenpox.”
The family contacted their GP who sent them for a precautionary blood test to rule out glandular fever.
“I was told that we would get the results sometime the following week, so when the phone rang that evening asking for us to bring Lois back to the hospital for further tests, I knew it must be more serious. Once we got to the hospital and were asked to move to a separate room, the words no parent ever wants or expects to hear suddenly became our reality. It was confirmed they suspected leukaemia and they immediately admitted us onto the ward at Epsom Hospital until they knew more.”
From there, Lois was transferred to the Royal Marsden where the diagnosis of AML was confirmed. Lois’s mum stayed with her at the hospital, whilst her dad and older brother, Joss, would visit every day; often spending the evenings together watching films in the family room so they wouldn’t have to be apart.
“Who would have thought that when we walked out of the house that Friday night, totally unprepared for even one night in hospital, we would not return home for over eight weeks.”
Lois was referred to Momentum Children’s Charity through their partner hospital, Epsom, not long after and the whole family have been supported by them ever since.
“We met Diana, our Family Support Worker, very early on and Momentum has been a big part of our lives since then. As parents, sometimes you feel you have to put on a brave face for family and friends, and you can’t truly tell them how you’re feeling. So, it’s invaluable to have that support from someone outside the family, who knows what you’re going through and can offer reassurance, help and advice when you need it most.”
“Sometimes, when you’re having a bad day, just someone being there to listen to you while you offload all your worries, is all the support you need.”
For Lois, the positive impact of the charity was also there from the very beginning thanks to the bright artwork and colourful rooms that the charity had commissioned at Epsom Hospital.
“Lois still talks about that first night in the Jacqueline Wilson room. It was a great distraction and talking point, which was much needed that night. In fact, every time we’ve been admitted into Epsom due to fevers or one of her many transfusions, we’d play a guessing game as to which themed room she would be in.”
Lois’s treatment plan involved four rounds of intensive chemotherapy over six months. Lois handled it all like an absolute superstar, and Momentum were on hand to bring little moments of light throughout too.
“Momentum kept Lois’s spirit up in so many ways. Knowing that Lois was sorely missing her weekly Stagecoach classes, Diana organised for West End musical theatre star, and Charity Ambassador Kim Ismay to be her Theatre Buddy which she’s absolutely loved.”
“There were also little gifts and treats, such as the time Diana turned up unexpectedly with a Lego friends set to help relieve the boredom of being stuck in isolation, and the time when she organised for me to have a massage when we were staying in hospital. One of the main highlights for Lois was being asked if she would be part of a Christmas photo shoot. Her confidence had been badly knocked from the side effects of treatment, and the shoot really boosted her confidence. She loved every minute of it.”
Lois’s diagnosis and gruelling treatment plan meant that the summer the family had planned – a Cub Camp and family holiday in Corfu – had to be cancelled. Then, when Lois’s treatment had finished and they made plans for 2020, the pandemic hit so the family found themselves, once again, cancelling holidays and facing months of isolation.
Having the holiday cancelled again was particularly hard as, when Lois was at her lowest point, they had promised her a day when she would stand with her feet in the sea, sun in the sky and a smile on her face. So, when Momentum offered them the chance to get away to one of their cabins in the New Forest, so that she could do just that, the family were uplifted.
“When we were offered a break at their amazing respite cabin last summer we jumped at the chance. It was so lovely to actually spend some much-needed time together as a family again where we could just switch off from everything, away from hospitals and appointments.”
When the charity was forced to put a pause on respite breaks due to government restrictions, they decided to run a competition to rename each of their holiday homes instead, asking for families to come up with new names that held a special meaning for them. Lois’s suggestions for the two New Forest cabins were chosen as the winners.
“When Momentum asked for children to come up with names for the cabins, Lois had so many ideas. Her winning names ‘Mo’s Pebble Lodge’ came about from the time she spent that weekend, painting pebbles and adding them to the collection in the beach hut; obviously, many other children have enjoyed creating these pebbles during their stay too.
“‘Mo’s Keep’ came from Lois remembering that the ‘Keep’ is the safest place in a castle and she said the cabin felt like a safe place to be.”
To celebrate their winning names, the family were invited to stay at the cabin again “At home we are always on the go, so staying at the cabin together offers us the chance to just chill out and relax together. Plus, this time, Lois’s hickman line had been removed so she was over the moon to be able to enjoy the on-site swimming pool.”
“As a family we will always be grateful for the ongoing support from Momentum and its fantastic team.”