Parents battle for Shona

THE parents of a nine-year-old girl fighting a rare form of cancer have launched a £250,000 appeal to pay for treatment in the United States which will give her a better chance of survival.

THE parents of a nine-year-old girl fighting a rare form of cancer have launched a £250,000 appeal to pay for treatment in the United States which will give her a better chance of survival.

Pete and Tracy Gill were devastated when their nine year old daughter Shona was diagnosed with a tumour for a second time.

Mr Gill, 43, a serving Suffolk Constabulary officer based in Sudbury, said: "In January Shona had a scan which came back negative and Shona now believed she could continue with a normal life.

"At the beginning of March there were signs of swelling and bruising on Shona's right leg, tests showed that the tumour had returned.

"Shona was taken back to Addenbrooke's Hospital where she was given the news that she would be given a further course of six weeks chemotherapy and, if the tumour was to shrink, Addenbrooke's might carry out a small operation which would very possibly mean the removal of her bladder, part of her bowel, and her right leg.

"There is the option now to take Shona to the USA where surgery would not be so draconian and hopefully she will be able to continue with a normal life. Her illness is fairly rare."

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The family has opened an appeal account, and are seeking charity status, so as to pay for treatment abroad.

They know two US clinics and a hospital which are prepared to treat Shona.

Mr Gill believes Shona's survival chances are better abroad and while in the UK they may have to remove a lot around the tumour, including her bladder and leg, whereas in America they would try and remove just the tumour.

The family is uncertain of the costs at this stage, but want fundraising to start soon. Any money left over will go towards other children suffering from the same form of cancer.

Her fight has taken its toll on Shona, her brother Scott, 13, and parents.

Primary school teaching assistant and dinner lady Mrs Gill, 38, said: "After all she has been through, there is no way we can give up. She is so courageous.

"People can't believe how she is, I get tearful when I think there are no prospects, but she tells me not to cry, she does not want that. It's been traumatic for her, but she copes, I am so very proud of her."

Last March Shona was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer which was found in her pelvic area and the tumour was the size of a rugby ball.

Shona spent nearly six months in hospital, mostly at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, and also some time at Ipswich Hospital.

She had two major operations both lasting for nearly six hours.

Shona came back to Ipswich Hospital for a week and on the day she was due to be released she had a massive fit. The fit was caused by the tumour pressing on the renal tubes and her kidneys failed.

She was returned to Addenbrooke's where a small tube was inserted into her right kidney. Shona suffered a further 40 fits in the space of 24 hours.

Shona received nine weeks chemotherapy in an attempt to shrink the tumour and a six-hour operation to remove a small cricket ball sized tumour.

Surgeons were unable to remove all the cancerous cells and six and a half weeks of radiotherapy followed.

Sara Bryant, from Edinburgh Close in Stowmarket, is keen to help raise funds for the appeal.

Miss Bryant is organising a 12-hour darts marathon in one of the town's pub next month.

Miss Bryant, who heard of Shona's plight through a friend said: "She (Shona) is so outgoing, full of fun, smiling, on the outside all smiles, that's why it's called the smile appeal. I really wanted to help.''

nTo contribute to Shona's appeal, people can pay money in to "Shona's Smile Appeal'', account 30337218, sort code 20/44/51 at Barclays Bank, Princes Street branch in Ipswich. Details about the darts marathon to Miss Bryant on 07747 692024.

nShona's cancer was a rhabdomyosarcoma, the most common of a group of tumours known as soft tissue sarcomas, which develop from muscle or fibrous tissue and can affect different parts of the body including around the head and neck, bladder or testes

nTumours can be found in limb muscles and in the chest or abdominal wall.

nThe most common sign is a swelling or lump

n About two thirds of all children with rhabdomyosarcoma can be cured.

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