2nd February 2017
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Rachel Bland, Freya’s Mum, agreed to tell her story to inspire support for Cyclists Fighting Cancer. Here’s what she said…
Freya’s got acute lymphoblastic leukaemia which was diagnosed in May 2007 after a routine blood test. She was almost 16 months old.
She had been unwell in the February with a viral illness which didn’t clear up, hospital blood tests at the time were inconclusive but showed a low white blood cell count. A repeat blood test a couple of weeks later also proved normal except the low white cell count, so it was repeated a few weeks later by which time, the leukaemia had really taken hold. She had no outward symptoms, other than being a bit clingy and having a slight cold.
Our GP was phoned and given the results, she then called us and Freya was admitted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro that evening. We went to Bristol Children’s hospital the next day where she remained for the next 7 weeks, undergoing intensive chemotherapy and steroid treatment. We returned home when this first phase had finished and Freya’s leukaemia was effectively in remission. The chemo then continues for another two years, with two further blocks of intensive chemo, intravenous chemo every 4 weeks. lumbar punctures with chemo being put into the spinal fluid every 12weeks and lower dose chemo everyday at home.
When we left Bristol, Freya had completely lost the use of her legs due to the chemo she had received, had put on loads of weight due to the steroids and often couldn’t even support her head or turn over. She had proven to be very sensitive to the chemo, and suffered debilitating side effects which have thankfully lessened over time. Not many of the children react to the chemo in such an extreme way.
She slowly started crawling again, pulling herself up and walking. We’re now two years down the line and she is unrecognisable as the toddler who left Bristol in such a state. She still has regular chemo, but in lower doses to continue mopping up any stray leukaemia cells. She is still prone to infections and ends up staying in hospital for a few days at a time, but the gaps between them are much longer now.
The physical improvements are massive and she is now often able to attend preschool 3 mornings a week where she loves the outdoor play sessions with their bikes and trikes. Treatment will hopefully finish at the beginning of August and then she’ll continue to have regular monitoring to check the disease hasn’t returned.
We received gift tokens for Halfords from CFC, so I took Freya with me to the shop to choose her new bike! It had to be the pink one with the fluffy seat and tassles! We had enough money left over to by a helmet (pink) and bell, she was ecstatic!
We found out about CFC through our CLIC Sargent Family Support worker who had been given your details and thought Freya would benefit physically from having a bicycle.
I think this charity is fantastic. Children love bikes and the freedom it gives them, but when a child is undergoing treatment for cancer, the families’ needs change and often end up struggling financially. We certainly couldn’t have afforded to buy Freya the same quality of bike that she received through CFC.
Freya’s bike has been brilliant, it’s given her the incentive to get up and go out with her siblings. She did have a tricycle before but found pedalling it quite difficult. Having her own bike at home has given her confidence to use the bicycles and join in with her peer group when she’s at preschool. She can’t pedal far yet, but she’s trying. The more she uses her legs, climbs on and off her bike, the stronger she is becoming.
We used to live on a boat but have recently moved into a house with a garden and Freya is able to use her bike more now. With summer coming up and treatment finishing, we’re hoping that being on her bike will continue to help in her rehabilitation. She wants to be able to take her bike to the park and cycle with her brother and sister, so were working on it!
Every little counts and without CFC she wouldn’t have had this as a huge incentive to keep going.