Esme an example for others with cancer
A YOUNG girl from Wells who has completed two years of gruelling cancer treatment wants to turn her own experience into a positive one to help others.
Esme Deacon was five years old when she was diagnosed with leukaemia. Now, at the age of seven, she has just finished treatment and celebrated with ringing the bell on the Oak Ward at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton on her last day of treatment.
Mum Tiffany said: “She loves Wicked the Musical so she dressed up for the occasion as did all the nurses and doctors. Then the next day we had a lovely big picnic with bouncy castles, face painting and dancing.”
The family are now encouraging anyone who knows a young cancer patient to nominate them for an awards scheme that recognises the courage of children with cancer such as Esme.
The Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens Star Awards, in partnership with TK Maxx, celebrate the strength shown by youngsters who have been diagnosed with and treated for cancer. There is no judging panel for the awards because Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens believes every child diagnosed with cancer deserves special recognition.
All children nominated receive a unique trophy, £50 TK Maxx gift card, T-shirt and a certificate signed by a host of famous faces, including Strictly Come Dancing’s Dr Ranj, Dame Emma Thompson, Una Healy and Aston Merrygold, as well as children’s favourite entertainer Mister Maker. Their siblings also receive a certificate.
“A friend nominated Esme for the award and we were so happy to see her open her star trophy, it was a time when we were so fragile and in shock at all that was happening to Esme,” said Tiffany.
“Esme was just five when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, a cancer that affects the white blood cells.
“She is very bright and wanted to know everything about her condition and to this day Esme can name every single drug she has taken and the medical names of the drugs.
“She is very keen to become a medical researcher or work in the field of science when she is older, she is very determined and I am so proud of her.”
There are around 400 new diagnoses of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia every year in the UK affecting children aged 0-14.
Tiffany said: “Before her diagnosis Esme was very rarely ill and had 100 per cent attendance at school, so when in the Easter of 2016 she went down with infections and complained of tiredness and headaches, we knew something wasn’t right.
“We had been back and forth to the GP a number of times over about two months and she was then referred to Musgrove Park Hospital for tests. At this point Esme was clearly ill and needed to undergo a blood transfusion and we were told that it was highly likely she had leukaemia.
“It was a huge shock and although we knew she was ill, you never expect to hear the words that your child has cancer. It is something that happens to other people, but not to you.”
Esme was treated at Bristol Children’s Hospital where she underwent chemotherapy treatment leading to hair loss and making her feel withdrawn from all that she knew. Steroid treatment took its toll as well and Tiffany said that she lost her smile and became inward-looking.
“It was really tough for Esme, she looked drained and withdrawn. We really didn’t know if we were going to get her back and how she would progress in this fragile state. But we will always remember the first time she smiled after months of treatment and it felt amazing.”
Tiffany, also mum to Nora, aged five, spent many nights by her daughter’s bed making sure she was comfortable and being there for her night and day.
Esme has always enjoyed school and is now a pupil in Year Three at St Cuthbert’s Junior School, where swimming and gymnastics are just two of her favourite sports.
Alison Birkett, spokesperson for Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens in the South West, said: “The Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens Star Awards recognise young cancer patients who have survived cancer or are currently being treated for the disease.
“Cancer can have a devastating impact on their lives.We want to bring forward the day when every child and young person survives cancer and does so with a good quality of life.”
To nominate a child for an award, visit cruk.org/kidsandteens. The awards are open to all under-18s who have cancer or have been treated for the disease in the last five years.