Back to normal life thanks to Cancer Research UK

Neve on the sofa cuddling her dog
Cuddle companion: Neve loves the simple things in life such as walking her dog Credit: Benjamin McMahon

Thanks to legacy gifts left in wills, Cancer Research UK’s revolutionary stem-cell treatment saved the life of Neve, 11, from Wolverhampton, as her mum, Tracey, explains.

It was nearly Christmas 2007. My husband Ian was bathing Neve, then just two, when he felt a lump the size of a golf ball under her armpit. Alarmed, he and I rushed her to an NHS walk-in centre, where a doctor recommended we take her to hospital. We drove straight there and Neve was kept in for tests. We were really worried it might be something serious.

On Christmas Eve, we received the dreadful news that Neve might have leukaemia. In that moment, our world turned upside down. At midnight, when she should have been tucked up in bed waiting for Santa, we were heading to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. On Christmas morning, our worst fears were confirmed: a consultant gave us the diagnosis: acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Our hopes evaporated. We were distraught. 

Neve couldn’t understand what was happening – or where Christmas had gone. I remember looking into her frightened eyes. ‘You’re poorly and need to stay here,’ I said. ‘But we’ll have Christmas once you’re better.’

She was given an 80 per cent chance of survival and put on a two-year chemotherapy plan. The treatment was incredibly tough. It was heartbreaking. For months she barely spoke. All we could do was stay strong for her.

Those two years were so hard. The worst moment came when she developed sepsis, triggered by an infection. Her immune system had been shot to pieces. We were told she might not last the night. It was terrifying. But incredibly, she pulled through. 

Finally Neve finished her treatment. But just when we thought we were home and dry, a lumbar puncture confirmed the cancer had come back. The doctor gave her a 30 per cent chance of survival and prescribed aggressive chemo and radiotherapy followed by a stem-cell transplant to replace the cells that had been killed off by the higher doses of drugs. 

Waiting for news of a bone marrow donor was like being on a rollercoaster. Possible matches were found but weren’t quite right. Our hopes would soar, only to crash. Then we were overjoyed to hear a perfect match had been found in New York. Neve had the transplant in July 2010. The procedure had been revolutionised thanks to Cancer Research UK, making it gentler on her. Since then we’ve not looked back. She’ll have checks for life but is otherwise a normal girl. 

Neve started secondary school in September. She’s a real character, always singing. We’re just so grateful our little girl is here, happy and healthy. Gifts in wills left to Cancer Research UK have given her the gift of life, and let us get our family back.

Leave a life-changing legacy

Legacy gifts fund more than a third of Cancer Research UK’s research, leading to cutting-edge technology, gentler treatments and new tests, shared globally to help beat cancer sooner. Call 0800 035 9000 for a free information pack or for details, visit cruk.org/legacies

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