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“I wish to have a Disney themed party with my family and friends”
6 years old, Bridgwater
Seven-year-old Ryleigh dreamed of growing her hair out, just like her favourite princess Rapunzel. But a brain cancer diagnosis resulted in the loss of her hair. A relapse also meant that Ryleigh was given an uncertain prognosis. But whilst princess mad Ryleigh would no longer be able to grow her hair, her wish to have a princess-themed birthday party provided the perfect opportunity for her to be a ‘mini princess for the day,’ as mum Kayleigh told us.
Ryleigh's brain tumour diagnosis started as a ‘long-winded' journey. ‘We were in and out of doctors appointments for three to four months before she was properly diagnosed,’ said Mum, with incorrect diagnoses ranging from head tilts to acid reflux. ‘The doctor noticed that she wasn’t walking right. So, they sent her to get an MRI’. After receiving the results from the scan, the worst was confirmed. ‘It was absolutely heartbreaking when they told us, the world just crumbled around us.’ Since receiving her initial diagnosis, Ryleigh’s brain cancer has relapsed.
‘It was a shock because of her age. She was only two,’ said Mum, ‘you read these things, you never think that it would happen to you - but then they do.’ The diagnosis also meant that Mum and Dad had to juggle taking care of Ryleigh’s brother, who was just three at the time. ‘He didn’t understand what was happening. It was so hard to be a normal family.’
Since the age of two, frequent hospital trips have shaped what Ryleigh perceives as normal: ‘She loves going to the hospital because it's all she’s known. But it's not right, she shouldn’t be this excited.’ After signing Ryleigh up for Baileigh lessons, her diagnosis meant that she would never be able to start. Several surgeries have meant that she’s had to be held back a year at school due to developmental delays. ‘Her childhood isn’t how it should be,’ said Mum.
Ryleigh is currently in year one and enjoys studying hard at her school. She’s also a lover of all things princesses. ‘She’ll choose princesses over anything else, especially Elsa, Anna, and Rapunzel’.
‘She’s a girly girl through and through’, said Mum, ‘She’s really the complete opposite of me in that sense!’ Ever since mum can remember, Ryleigh has been princess obsessed. ‘She has to be in a dress every day!’ said Mum.
Sadly, Ryleigh's prognosis is uncertain. ‘The oral chemo she was on, hasn’t worked sadly. The tumour has grown more. There aren’t many options left.’ That’s why Ryleigh and her family chose to have a princess-themed party: After receiving a life-altering diagnosis, her wish would revive a piece of her childhood. Ryleigh would be able to be her true self, ‘a mini princess’ as Mum told us, whilst family and friends could form a world of positive memories to hold onto.
Before her diagnosis, Ryleigh wanted to grow her hair out. She wanted to be just like her favourite princess Rapunzel. Unfortunately, chemotherapy caused her hair to fall out. Ryleigh had little control over her life. But her wish gave that control back.
Ryleigh had the power to choose what her special day would look like, and was even able to design her very own princess dress, which mum told us was the highlight of the wish:
‘The lead-up was getting her rainbow dress fitted. She felt really special having it all fitted properly. That was one of her favourite moments. But on the day, we came in early so she was helping them set up, she was able to be in control and set things out.’
The birthday girl was also allowed to pie the party’s entertainer in the face, one of her favourite things that happened on the day.
How Ryleigh's wish helped
"We made some really good happy memories, it was all we really wanted, to see her have fun and just be a kid."
For Ryleigh and her family, every moment counts, and every opportunity to create long-lasting memories is vital. ‘The memories, when you have this horrible diagnosis you want to make memories that last a lifetime. Seeing your child happy is worth more than anything else. I want to say a massive thank you, to everyone who donated goods for Ryleigh’s birthday - without the generous donations none of it would be possible.’
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