Vanessa was 4 years old when she was first diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer that forms in the nerve tissue and mainly affects babies and young children. She was treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital and her treatment required her to be in hospital for long periods of time. We first met Vanessa four years ago not long after she started treatment on Lion Ward. She was low at the time and was missing her two sisters, Ruby and Zoe. She loved the Spread a Smile visits as they helped her take her mind off her treatment.
Vanessa’s dad, Parker, told us about the impact our entertainers’ visits had on Vanessa: “Spread a Smile’s volunteers were one of the only things that could raise a smile in our daughter during her chemotherapy. Their fairies are angels of kindness, and their magicians conjure away the pain with every visit. It’s hard to explain how slowly time passes on a children’s oncology ward, but Spread a Smile silenced the ticking of the clock, and remained at our daughter’s side to sprinkle a little fairy dust and make her feel for a few moments like the luckiest girl in the world.”
Vanessa loves Les Miserables and we were able to organise a visit for Vanessa, her mum, dad, and sisters to watch Les Mis and even meet and sing with the cast after the show. Vanessa sent us a message after the show: “I loved all the songs and I think they are all great singers. The best bit was when they sung ‘One Day More’. The show was really good. I loved it! Thank you Josephine and Vanessa.” Her dad also wrote, “Thank you to this wonderful charity, which works tirelessly to spread a smile to children.”
Vanessa’s mum, Anna, summed up Spread a Smile’s work: “A child still wants to play, still wants to smile and still wants to spend their days laughing despite being very sick… Probably the most valuable type of help at that time in our lives was when the extraordinary team from Spread a Smile came into the hospital and just made a difference at that moment and let my daughter be a child again. That for me as a mother is the most precious gift my daughter could have during a very very tough time.”
After four years of painful treatment, Vanessa is still battling this awful disease. Spread a Smile has loved helping her and her family have moments of respite and joy during this distressing time and helping them create uplifting memories to sustain them in the future.