Brave Luisa's recovery

AN INSPIRATIONAL 13-year-old girl who suffers from an acute form of leukaemia has spoken of her life slowly returning to normal.When the bell for summer term rings in two weeks, it will mark the next phase in Ipswich High School pupil Luisa Docherty's recovery from a rare form of blood cancer.

AN INSPIRATIONAL 13-year-old girl who suffers from an acute form of leukaemia has spoken of her life slowly returning to normal.

When the bell for summer term rings in two weeks, it will mark the next phase in Ipswich High School pupil Luisa Docherty's recovery from a rare form of blood cancer.

Diagnosed with life-threatening acute lymphobastic leukaemia almost one year ago, sport-mad Luisa, from Dovercourt, is returning to school on a part time basis – halfway through her two-year intensive chemotherapy treatment.

Describing how she first thought something was wrong, her mother, Toni Docherty, said Luisa had been complaining of headaches and earaches, but when they went to their doctor, he failed to see anything wrong.


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Mrs Docherty, an estate agent negotiator prior to her daughter's illness, continued: "So, I went away for four days skiing and when I came back on the Sunday, I took one look at her and knew something wasn't right – she was as white as a ghost.

"I took her to the doctor again who said it definitely wasn't earache, but it could be glandular fever. When he said she wasn't anaemic, I asked him to take a blood test.

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"The next day, the doctor came to my office and I thought maybe he was looking to buy a house, but instead he asked to speak to me privately.

"He told me Luisa had leukaemia: I was devastated, completely numbed."

They went straight to Colchester General Hospital for more tests, but although at that stage Luisa knew something was wrong, she did not know exactly what.

Mrs Docherty explained: "Luisa said to me: 'You will tell me when you know what's wrong, won't you?' Later she asked me whether she had cancer. I said 'Yes, it might be'."

She was taken to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge where she stayed for the next three weeks, undergoing the first stage in her chemotherapy treatment.

She has lost her hair twice in the past year and at one stage could not eat or swallow, but Luisa, an avid Arsenal supporter, said: "It's been quite hard. There have been times when I wish it had happened to someone else, but then there are others when I just think 'Why not me?'

"I'm looking forward to going back to school and seeing all my friends."

Although she has a Hickman line - a tube going into the chest and directly into the heart avoiding the need to administer medication by needles or drips – she said: "I'm also looking forward to playing netball, hockey and hopefully swimming soon."

Mrs Docherty said the past year had brought the creative side out of her "brilliant, brave" daughter and spent hours writing poetry about her experiences.

Luisa's plight was taken up by Make-a-Wish Foundation UK, an organisation which aims to turn into reality the wishes of children living with life-threatening illnesses, and they have granted her number one choice – to meet the cast of American television programme Friends.

Mrs Docherty said: "She watches the programme endlessly while she's been recovering. It drives me mad. But although the wish has been granted, the cast members still need to be able to fit us in to their schedule otherwise the wish expires in four weeks. Perhaps, your article will help."

During her visits to Addenbrooke's, she befriended Alistair, a fellow patient on her ward.

Mrs Docherty said: "He was great for her. They were like Romeo and Juliet together."

Alistair died in December last year and Luisa still wears a pendant with his picture around her neck.

The EADT is currently running a campaign to help Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood (CLIC).

Our Clic into Action Campaign appeal aims to raise £50,000 for Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood (CLIC).

Luisa has a Clic nurse based at Addenbrookes. Toni Docherty said: "The CLIC nurse has been is excellent. She is based in Addenbrokes. She has been there since almost as soon as Luisa was diagnosed almost a year ago."

Our campaign aims to continue funding a children's cancer and leukaemia nurse and a play specialist in East Anglia. Donations can also be made by credit of debit card to the CLIC into Action donation line on (0800) 1383810 or by cheque, payable to CLIC into Action and sent direct to CLIC, 8 Wren Close, Thurston, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP313TQ or to any of the East Anglian Daily Times Offices.

Cheques can also be paid direct into any branch of Lloyds TSB, quoting CLIC into Action, sort code 30-00-01, account number 02693685.

Donations can also be made via the CLIC website at www.clic.uk.com/donfr.htm quoting ref. CIA.

The CLIC registered charity number is 802396.

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