by HAZEL HAMMOND
A FUNDRAISING campaign has been launched by a Bessbrook family in the hope of sending their three-year-old daughter to America for specialist cancer treatment.
Little Ellen Treanor was just two years old when she was diagnosed with stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma in January this year.
Since the toddler’s shock diagnosis, Ellen – who celebrated her third birthday in March at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children - has had eight cycles of chemotherapy, a 13 hour surgery in May and is now recovering from high dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.
After she recovers from this, the plan is to start radiotherapy in early September, followed by six months of antibody treatment.
In a desperate bid to increase little Ellen’s chances of survival, her devoted parents Paddy and Claire have joined forces with Solving Kid’s Cancer – a neuroblastoma charity – and are now hoping to raise enough money to enable her to take part in a clinical trial in the United States.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds will be needed for the American trip, with two different clinical trials available for children in remission, both of which are aimed at stopping the disease from returning.
Ellen’s dad Paddy told the Ulster Gazette, his family has been overwhelmed by the community’s response, with around £25,000 raised over the past couple of weeks for the vaccine, which is not currently available on the NHS.
“There is still a 50 per cent chance it will come back and it made us look further afield to see if there were any other options available and there is a trial in America that both aim to reduce the risk of relapse.
“It is a rare cancer with only 600 children in USA diagnosed and 50 in the UK every year.”
Mr Treanor said Ellen has been having difficulty eating since her last bout of chemotherapy.
“She has lost a lot of weight and we are trying to get her fed back up.
“The next treatment will be radiotherapy around the start of September, about 60 days after her stem cell transplant.
“We try not to think of the what ifs and get through each treatment as best we can.
“There is only a small window to get to America once she stops treatment with the NHS in March next year.
“The charity Solving Kids Cancer is a neuroblastoma charity and they have a USA branch, so we have been in contact and been given the ins and outs of the two trials.
“Once it gets closer to the time, they will give us a final figure, but we have to start the fundraising now in preparation.
“It will cost hundreds of thousands and the good thing is anything that is raised goes to Ellen’s Journey and Ellen’s Trust and is held there for further treatment even afterwards.”
With little Ellen’s symptoms originally attributed to constipation from potty training, her devoted father said he did not initially expect a cancer diagnosis.
“You never think it is going to be cancer. Ellen’s mother Claire is a radiographer in Daisy Hill Hospital and she was a bit more worried, being from a medical background, than I was.
“It was the 2nd of January before we got up to Belfast and got the confirmation, but by that time we kind of knew.
“Even before the biopsy and scans, we had a fair idea but not realising how severe it was as it is a very rapid one and had already spread to her bones and bone marrow.
“There was no good news; every time the consultant came in it was bad news but that is typical of this disease.
“Thankfully from the treatment, it is now clear from her bones and bone marrow.
“The treatment knocks her for six, but she bounces back and even after surgery she was in ICU with sepsis, but was down in the ward again after one week and a further week later we got discharged”.
A number of fundraising initiatives have been taking place over recent weeks, to help raise funds for Ellen’s future treatment.
On Friday evening, the community of Bessbrook turned out to take part in a family walk around the town, to show support for Ellen and her family, raising £13,523.89, with further money still coming in.
Anyone who would like to support Ellen’s campaign, and give her family hope, can donate by visiting:
See P26 for pictures from Ellen’s Walk.