When Amelia was 8 years old she started to experience headaches and stomach pains at night. Amelia’s symptoms continued and her family started noticing that she didn’t seem to be growing, wasn’t eating properly, started to lose weight and kept losing her balance and falling over.
Knowing that something wasn’t right, Amelia was referred to a Specialist at Colchester Hospital for an MRI scan, which revealed a large mass on her brain and treatment starting in November 2022. As the mass was very close to her eyes, her scans were sent to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and Addenbrooke’s Children’s Hospital for review, after which the family were told that the mass was in fact cancer. Amelia was diagnosed with Germinoma, a brain tumour, in January 2023.
Six cycles of chemotherapy treatment followed, during which time Amelia was often very unwell, in and out of hospital for blood transfusions. It was an extremely emotional time for Amelia and her family, with Amelia just wanting to be at home, surrounded by her family.
In April 2023, Amelia was referred for a three-week course of Proton Beam Therapy at University College London Hospital (UCLH), during which time Amelia and her Mum stayed together in London, going into hospital every day for treatment.
Amelia’s Mum, Gemma said, “It was a really difficult time for us all, with Amelia and I in London away from the rest of the family. We were in and out of hospital so much and couldn’t be together as a family. Amelia was often so ill that we weren’t able to do anything else at all.”
It was during this time that Amelia’s family were introduced to Spread a Smile.
Gemma said, “My husband Scott, met some of the Spread a Smile team in hospital. They introduced themselves and said they would love to support us, mentioning an upcoming day out at Mildreds restaurant and another trip to see Frozen at the theatre.
“It really was amazing as the outings gave us the chance to do something together as a family. We went to see Frozen just after Amelia finished her protons treatment and it was brilliant to have her sisters join us for such a special day out.
“We didn’t have a lot of money, as Amelia’s Dad had given up work to look after our other children whilst I was with Amelia in London. Things were really tight and we were under a lot of pressure. Getting to go to Mildreds and Frozen were such treats for the whole family and something we would never have been able to afford. Spread a Smile gave us a place to be together, not having to worry about money. There was entertainment, magic, singing and so much more to help cheer us all up and forget about the other stuff we were going through. We were so well looked after.
“Just seeing the looks on the children’s faces was amazing. The girls particularly loved the face painting and balloon making and the Lola’s cupcakes were incredible – always such a treat. What was nice for me was being able to just sit down, relax for a bit and watch my children together, just having fun and smiling. We also went along to the Spread a Smile Summer party in June and that was a beautiful sunny day for the whole family. We had so much fun!”
Amelia rang the bell at Colchester Hospital in July 2023 to mark the end of her treatment for cancer, with Spread a Smile continuing to be there for Amelia and her family.
“In August we had the opportunity to go to the Lake District as a family for the Spread a Smile residential trip and we jumped at the chance. It’s not something we would’ve been able to do otherwise and we were so excited to spend time together and go away together after Amelia finished her treatment.
“Spread a Smile put on such an amazing trip! Everything was organised for us and there were adventures, fun sessions and so much more to enjoy. We met and learnt from other families on their cancer journeys and Scott and I also got to chill out for a little bit in the evening which was so special. The kids still say it was the best holiday they have ever had and we will never forget sitting out at night watching the shooting stars. Such special moments that we will never forget.
“Seeing Amelia go through her treatment was so hard. She was so sick and there was so much worry and pain. Being away from the family was extremely difficult and a very lonely time for me. Spread a Smile brought light back into lives. They gave us something to look forward to and a place to be together again as a family. We will forever be grateful for this amazing charity and their amazing team.”
Please help ensure we can continue to support children like Amelia and their families by donating today. Thank you.