EADT launches £50,000 cancer care appeal

TODAY the East Anglian Daily Times launches a campaign to raise £50,000 to help fund a children's cancer nurse and a play specialist for East Anglia.Our CLIC into Action appeal, will ensure hundreds of young cancer suffers across the region have access to the best possible support as they fight the disease.

TODAY the East Anglian Daily Times launches a campaign to raise £50,000 to help fund a children's cancer nurse and a play specialist for East Anglia.

Our CLIC into Action appeal, will ensure hundreds of young cancer suffers across the region have access to the best possible support as they fight the disease.

Every day this week we will speak to the parents of children in East Anglia whose lives have been touched by cancer and who are calling for you – our readers – to dig deep for the charity Challenging Childhood Cancer and Leukaemia (CLIC).

The charity has helped youngsters like George Pennick, who at just over a year old has already coped with more than most of us will ever have to deal with in a lifetime.

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When George was born his parents knew he would have a 50 percent chance of developing eye cancer.

His father Tim, 42, is completely blind, having had both eyes removed as a baby.

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Forty years ago, it was the only way to ensure that the hereditary cancer – bilateral retinoblastoma – would not spread and kill him. Tim's mother also lost her sight to the disease.

Tim, a BT software engineer, and his wife Rachel, 37, who live in Martlesham, Ipswich, were in two minds about starting a family in case Tim would pass on the affliction.

Rachel, a part time childminder, said: “We weighed it up and felt that Tim's life has been worth living and hopefully it would be the same for our child.”

Rachel had a blood test before George was even born to determine whether he had inherited the condition.

The results came back a week after he was born. It was not what they wanted to hear.

Two weeks after the birth, George was back in hospital. A week later, he had started chemotherapy.

Doctors had discovered tumours in both of George's eyes. Worst affected was his right eye, where a large tumour was impairing his central vision. His left eye contained several smaller growths.

His mum said: “It wasn't so much of a shock finding out as we knew about the risks but seeing him go through the treatment, when he was only three weeks old, was hard.”

As he was so tiny, George had a Hickman line inserted into his chest to allow powerful drugs to be administered without the need for injections. He received chemotherapy for three days every month for the first six months of his life and also had to undergo many platelet and blood transfusions. Every month, doctors would examine his eyes, under anaesthetic, to monitor the tumours. After the first three months, the Royal London Hospital was satisfied with his progress and allowed him to have subsequent treatments in Ipswich Hospital.

As there was a serious risk of infection, through the line in his chest, it had to be flushed every week.

That was when CLIC nurse Rachel Dooley stepped in.

George's mum said: “Having Rachel come to the house was such a help. It meant we didn't have to go to the hospital all the time. It was far less disruptive for all of us and to George's routine. It is a truly wonderful service. It is so important to be able to be at home and have the nurse come to you.

“The CLIC play specialist was also brilliant. She introduced George to all the equipment in theatre, as if it was a game. They played with the mask and the machinery. When he had to have radiotherapy it he would even try to give himself the anaesthetic. It just made life so much easier and less traumatic for George.”

Rachel urged everyone to donate to the EADT's CLIC into Action appeal, adding: “I would absolutely support any effort to raise money for CLIC. They were so fantastic to us.”

The Hickman line was removed last summer but as the tumours were still growing, George needed daily radiotherapy during September and October 2002.

George also had a radioactive plaque applied to the tumours in his left eye, which had grown to a worrying size. The plaque is similar to a contact lens, which is applied under anaesthetic and allowed to remain in the eye for several days to stop the cancer cells dividing.

“Unfortunately while he was having chemotherapy he seemed to be doing well but as soon as he stopped, the tumours grew back,” said Rachel.

She added: “It's been up and down like that, really. We've been told the tumours cease to grow after the age of five. He'll either have some sight or none at all. We don't know yet. I don't think he can have much vision in his right eye as the cancer damaged the retina but he definitely has a lot in his left. He still looks directly at people and is into everything.”

Rachel said there was a possibility of the cancers growing back elsewhere in later life but that it was not a serious risk.

She is prepared to help George lead as normal life as possible, even if he goes completely blind.

She said: “I wouldn't be surprised if when he goes for his next check-up in February we find the tumours have grown back. There is a theory that they get more aggressive in subsequent generations.

“Having a dad and a grandma with the same thing makes a huge difference. If you have never come into contact with someone who can't see and then you lose your sight it could be very frightening.”

George's father copes extremely well with his guide dog, Rebel, a German Shepherd and has a very good job as a software engineer for BT – using a Braille keyboard.

“We know that going blind is not the worst that can happen,” said Rachel.

n There are many ways you can donate to our appeal. Every little helps.

Call the CLIC into Action donation line on freephone 0800 138 3810 to donate by credit or debit card or to request an Appeal pack containing ideas for organising a fundraising event, setting up a standing order or making a gift aid donation.

By cheque, made payable to CLIC into Action and sent direct to either CLIC (East Anglia), 8 Wren Close, Thurston, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP31 3TQ or to any of the East Anglian Daily Times offices, marked "CLIC into Action".

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

By credit card on the CLIC website www.clic.uk.com/donfr.htm quoting reference CIA.

By recycling printer ink cartridges using collection bins in the Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury offices of the EADT.

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