We had met with Dr Dan Ford in December 2007 to discuss the possibilities of radiotherapy. However, Dr Peet agreed with us that we should attempt Vinblastine before this decision was made. As the Vinblastine did not stop Poppy’s tumour growing, by April 2008 we were again in meetings with Dr Peet & Dr Ford. Dr Peet knew that we had wanted to avoid radiotherapy if possible & was extremely supportive at this difficult point, as he has always been throughout Poppy’s journey.
Poppy having her mask made by Jason
The first step was to make Poppy’s mask. She would wear this each day of the 28-days of planned radiotherapy at the QE Hospital in Birmingham. We were incredibly lucky, as Thomas, a school friend of Poppy’s, parents both worked in the Radiotherapy department at the QE. Thomas’ dad, Jason, actually made Poppy’s mask. This link really helped us, Jason & Clare were so lovely & reassuring.
Poppy with Clare & Jason
Because of Poppy’s age, just 5 & a half, we were told that Poppy would probably need a GA every day. However, we worked very closely with Poppy’s lovely play therapist, Jenny, & with her support, that of Clare & Jason, the fantastic QE staff & a special cuddly cat called Kizzy, Poppy completed the whole 28 days wide awake!
Poppy hugs Kizzy as she has her radiotherapy
Taking Poppy for her first radiotherapy session was so frightening. It was at another hospital, for adults, the staff were not familiar to us & most alarmingly we knew that the awful side effects of the treatment would be permanent. The initial side effects were temporary – hairloss, swelling, burnt skin & sickness. But the longer term side effects were more serious – some loss of IQ, more damage to Poppy’s sight, loss of concentration & possible secondary cancers in later life. Again, an awful treatment to have to agree to, but we had no other choice.
Poppy on the way to the QE Hospital - excited about her radiotherapy! Bless her!
Poppy had radiotherapy every day (Mon-Fri) for 28 days. We would drive her to the QE hospital, she would skip round to Room 11 (much to the amusement of the adult cancer patients!), she would post her card in the box, then skip in when her name was called, lie down clutching her cuddly cat Kizzy, have her mask clamped on, lie still in the room on her own (we were not allowed to stay in there) while dancing her feet to either High School Musical or Disney Princess songs being played for her, then she would collect her sticker (we had made a diary for Poppy – each day she added a sticker & Friday was treat day where she had chosen somewhere special to go for the day!), then skip back to the car & be back in school by 10.30am & complete a full day in her Reception class!! Absolutely amazing!!! Poppy completed her radiotherapy on July 16th 2008, her Uncle Tony's birthday this time!
A photo showing Poppy's hairloss from radiotherapy
In all of this time, Poppy only once complained of feeling sick. Her face did swell up, she lost a 1” band of hair around her head, her skin was very red & sore – but Poppy took it all in her stride. We are always proud of her, but I think watching how she coped with this is something we will always remember as one of our proudest moments. Poppy was only 5, yet she coped with such an ordeal in a way we couldn’t have hoped possible.
Our amazing star on one of her 'treat days' to Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm
Strange as it sounds, looking back those 6 weeks together, with me & Bri both off work (thanks to our fantastic employers), spending time together as a family every day & then taking Poppy somewhere special every Friday, is a time we will remember fondly. Yes, it was hard, but it brought us closer than ever & yet again, Poppy got us through it. We certainly are blessed to have such an amazing, brave, strong little girl.
'Poppies grow in an environment of wind, rain and the worst nature can throw at them. Despite this they grow up strong and hardy, yet delicate and beautiful.'