TEXT WISH TO 70111 TO DONATE £3 A MONTH
“I wish to go to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home”
15 years old, Thames Ditton
For 15-year-old Leila, her wish to go to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home meant that she was able to immerse herself into an animal lover's paradise. After a brain tumour diagnosis, Leila’s four-legged companion Bo, a 5-year-old Labrador, was there to provide her with some much need cuddles. ‘She loves dogs and all animals’ said mum Sarah ‘I was worried that we would come back with a dog or two!’
A brain tumour diagnosis came as a shock for mum and dad. In December of 2018, mum spotted that Leila’s eye was drooping, leading to a hospital trip. four weeks later Leila would be undergoing surgery to remove part of a tumour found in her brain. ‘It was completely out of the blue. It was an incredibly difficult time; she was only 11 years old,' said mum.
"The most difficult thing was trying not to let her know how scared I was. It's every parent's worst nightmare, and to keep that from your child is hard."
But positive news was soon to come. Whilst undergoing surgery, doctors discovered that Leila had a low-grade tumour. ‘It was a positive prognosis’ said mum. Still, an MRI scan in March 2019, two months after Leila underwent surgery, revealed that the tumour had changed slightly.
Following this, Leila underwent proton beam therapy in Germany. ‘We went in June for eight weeks, where Leila underwent proton therapy from Monday to Friday.’ The proton treatment was ‘claustrophobic’, requiring Leila to wear a mask to hold her head in place, causing feelings of nausea. ‘She was so brave to go through all of that,’ said mum.
Lengthy hospital stays and intensive treatment took its toll on Leila ‘She was in her last year of primary school,’ said mum. Rather than taking part in fun-filled end of year activities, Leila spent a large part of her final weeks of primary school in hospital. ‘She missed out on quite a bit,’ said mum.
Despite it all, resilient Leila consistently bounced back. Just two weeks after her initial surgery, Leila was back in school part time. ‘What was most defining is that she went straight back to school; she didn’t want more time off. She took her SATs in May just three weeks before going to Germany,’ said mum. Leila’s journey with brain cancer has ‘made her stronger without even knowing it’.
‘It will always be a big thing that happened to her,’ said mum. Having started year 10, Studious Leila is ‘a model pupil’. ‘She studies really hard!’ said mum.
When choosing her wish, there wasn’t a moment of hesitation from Leila. ‘She just loves dogs, so her wish really was the first thing that came to mind,’ said mum. From a young age Leila has watched TV programmes about Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, sparking her curiosity for the charity.
‘She’s curious. She’s always wanted to find out about how things work behind the scenes- how they manage and take care of all the dogs,’ said mum. Leila hopes to one day volunteer at the dog centre. ‘I've always wanted to do something that will make a change, that will have an impact,’ said Leila. The experience has enabled her to gain valuable insight into the running of the charity.
Leila’s dog, Bo has also influenced her choice in wish. ‘Bo is a great friend and companion to Leila,’ said mum, ‘she really wants another one though!’
After pulling up to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in a limo, the family were given some Battersea merch, including a volunteer’s sweater and backpack, which they wore throughout the day. They then embarked on an exclusive tour of the facilities involving a look into the kennels, veterinary hospital and hydrotherapy pool. Whilst on the wish, Leila was able to put her dog training skills to the test whilst training Louie, a golden retriever puppy. But for Leila, her favourite part of the wish was meeting all the different dogs.
How Leila's wish helped
For Leila and her family, the wish has marked the end of her brain tumour experience, offering them a chance to reflect on the progress that Leila has made. ‘It gave us time to reflect on how far we've come and how incredibly lucky we have been that Leila is now so well and has such a positive prognosis,’ said mum.
The wish also allowed Leila to spend some quality time with her whole family, including her brother Stanley, who equally enjoyed meeting all the cuddly canines.
"Wishes give a chance for children and their families to have a fun time together. We’re incredibly grateful for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and Make-A-Wish for making Leila’s wish a reality."
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