Lottie was just six years old when in early 2022 she was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour (ATRT). Since then, Lottie has been undergoing an intensive course of treatment, including 12 cycles of chemotherapy at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, plus 6 weeks of daily radiotherapy sessions under anaesthetic at University College London Hospital (UCLH).
During her treatment, Lottie became extremely unwell and she was admitted to UCLH for five weeks. Lottie couldn’t leave her room, interact with other children or join in any group ward activities. She was away from home and her familiar surroundings and felt extremely isolated and lonely.
It was during this time that Spread a Smile met Lottie and started special weekly bedside visits for her with our Therapy Dogs – Buddy, Thomas and Smartie. These visits made such a difference to Lottie, providing her with a distraction and a chance to laugh and play with others.
Lottie’s Mum, Gemma said, “The Spread a Smile visits were the highlight of Lottie’s week. They kept her going, giving her something to look forward to when she was feeling so unwell and stuck in her room. When she saw one of the Therapy Dogs, her face would light up. I could feel her joy as she stroked their fur or gave them treats. They provided such warmth and comfort for Lottie. As her Mum, this meant so much giving me some happy memories in amongst all of the worry.”
During her radiotherapy treatment Lottie couldn’t tolerate food and didn’t eat for weeks. However being with Thomas encouraged Lottie to eat as she would break treats in two, giving half to Thomas and eating half herself. This was a huge moment for everyone.
“Meeting Buddy the Spread a Smile therapy dog in hospital was amazing as Lottie loves animals. Lottie was feeling really down and poorly as she had been having radiotherapy and hadn’t been out of bed for most of the week. When Buddy came in I hadn’t seen her move so quick in a long time! He got her through the radiotherapy. Lottie loved walking Buddy around her room and she would’ve hid him under her bed and kept him if she could.” Jason, Lottie’s Dad
Now that Lottie is back under the care of John Radcliffe Hospital, Spread a Smile continues to support Lottie through virtual visits. Even though Lottie is extremely unwell, she and her family were able to join us for a recent VIP outing to see The Lion King in London, making happy memories on a rare day out when they could all be together.
“Lottie has two siblings, Amy who is 15 and Jacob who is 11. Amy has taken it really hard as she understands everything. Jacob has major separation anxiety and leaving him for the 6 weeks when Lottie had radiotherapy in London was really hard.
So going on the Spread a Smile outing to see The Lion King was lovely. We’d been in and out of hospital since Lottie’s diagnosis 6 months before and it was the first time that just the 5 of us have had a day out together. It was very special.”
“Spread a Smile has been everything. Psychologically for us as parents it’s been tough. Laura from Spread a Smile has stayed behind chatting to us after sessions (when she didn’t have to do) and that’s been amazing and a huge support. What they do is unreal.
Even when Lottie is going through so much, fighting for her life and feeling horrendous all the time, Spread a Smile brings a smile to her face. And that’s all you want for any child.
Spread a Smile is an amazing and special charity and we feel so lucky to have found them. They bring such comfort and joy and have held Lottie’s hand during the most difficult time of her life.”
Please help ensure we can continue to support children like Lottie and their families by donating today. Thank you.