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“I wish to go on a holiday to Cornwall”
6 years old, London
Six-year-old Lila is a true water baby. So, when she was told that she’d be staying in a holiday house with a pool, she ‘just fell to the ground’ as mum Deborah told us. Lila had recently endured two and a half years of leukaemia treatment - an ordeal that sent the family into an isolating world riddled with uncertainty. But staying at a holiday home nestled in the welcoming village of Saltford provided them with a sense of warmth and community.
‘It was horrible,’ said Mum as she recalled hearing Lila’s leukaemia diagnosis for the first time, ‘it’s the worst doom that could ever befall a family’. Lila’s diagnosis was unexpected, shocking both Mum and Dad. ‘She was complaining of ankle pain. At the time cancer was the furthest thing from our mind,’ said Mum.
An X-ray to examine the cause of Lila’s ankle pain swiftly became a three-week-long hospital stay after doctors discovered its cause: Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a cancer that progresses rapidly. Doctors had to act fast, with treatment starting immediately. Suddenly, the family found themselves feeling isolated: ‘She was diagnosed at the beginning of the pandemic. I wanted to find other people who were going through the same thing.’
‘Your life is suddenly on pause. Everything changes,’ explained Mum. During her treatment, Lila was unable to visit her mum’s family who live abroad: ‘She didn’t see her grandparents for four years.’. The experience was equally as isolating for Lila’s four-year-old sister, Amelia. ‘All of a sudden mummy wouldn’t be there for three weeks,’ said Mum.
For two and a half years, when Lila was just a toddler, she endured rigorous chemotherapy. ‘We had to do unkind things to Lila in her point of view,’ said mum as she spoke of her treatment, ‘we had to for her to get better - but it still hurt her’. Treatment also clouded the family's lives in a haze of uncertainty: ‘With chemo, every little bump in the road, every fever, was a fight for her life.’
Having finished treatment last October, Mum told us how Lila is now ‘just a normal kid and has all the fun in the world.’ An avid learner, Lila loves school and enjoys mingling with her large friendship group as well as spending time with her sister. But more than anything, Lila loves a splash in the pool.
‘The excitement was unbearable,’ said Mum as she explained the atmosphere of excitement that dominated the house in the weeks leading up to her wish.
‘The first trip after treatment to reunite with Lila’s grandparents was overwhelming because of all the time apart,’ explained mum. So, for the family a relaxed trip was more than necessary: ‘We hadn’t had a moment to relax since she finished her treatment. This wish would be a moment for us where everything was taken care of.’
For Lila, her favourite part of the wish was being surprised by the house’s resident mermaid who’d been waiting for her arrival in the pool. ‘When Lila and her sister saw the mermaid, their jaws dropped!’ And of course, the endless amounts of swimming filled Lila’s heart with joy. ‘She wouldn't get out of the pool,’ said Mum ‘the trip firmed up her swimming skills!’ For Mum, her favourite moment was watching Lila dance around their kitchen, the way any carefree six-year-old should.
The family was astounded by the warmth of the local villagers, a memory that will stay with them forever. ‘Claire was so kind to donate her home to Make-A-Wish. The villagers all knew that we were coming.’ Leaving the isolating world of leukaemia, the family was greeted by the friendly arms of the local community: ‘One morning, a neighbour appeared at the house with two of her horses. The girls ran out screaming. That made the whole experience feel so warm - everyone was so happy. We didn’t feel isolated.’
How Lila's wish helped
As Lila’s mum told us, wishes are crucial as they ‘replace the negative memories with something so bright and beautiful. Make-A-Wish realised this urgency to form happy memories and gave something so wonderful to us.’
‘Thank you does not do it justice’ said Mum as she spoke about the donations that made Lila’s wish possible. ‘I hope people like Claire, who so kindly donated her holiday house to make Lila’s wish a reality, continue to support Make-A-Wish.’
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