12-year-old Jess was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma in June 2020 after discovering a lump in her neck.
Jess, from Stapleford, Nottingham, lives with her mum and dad and her 13-year-old brother Chris. Before her diagnosis Jess was really active – a blue belt in taekwondo, a rookie lifeguard and also loved dancing.
We spoke with Jess’ mum, Catherine, about their experience of childhood cancer and how they’re now using Jess’ love of swimming to help other families.
Speaking about the circumstances around Jess’ diagnosis, Catherine says Jess had appeared well.
She had spent the day in the garden playing in her paddling pool and bouncing on the trampoline. However, shortly after going to bed she came down and told us she had a lump in her neck.
“Being in the middle of the first coronavirus lockdown, we were very anxious about what to do next. Following a GP video appointment we were told to monitor the lump and get back in touch if it was no better.
“Five days later the lump had grown and Jess had developed a cough. We took her to A&E and they discovered a lymphoma down into her chest which was pushing on her airway.
Treatment began immediately with Jess being given steroids to shrink the tumour and then starting a course of chemotherapy.
Like so many others, the family found the timing of the diagnosis especially challenging due to the impact of the pandemic.
“It has been very hard on us,” Catherine explains.
Especially at the beginning with only one parent being allowed on the ward at a time. This meant Jess’ dad has had to miss many of the important meetings with consultants and I’ve had to make decision about her care which we would normally have made together.”
Jess’ initial treatment, which should have taken six months, took longer due to poor blood counts and several emergency admissions, including an eleven night stay over Christmas.
PASIC were able to support the family during this difficult time…
“We were so pleased to be getting some support from outside the medical team,” said Catherine. “We had an initial grant from PASIC and our Family Support Worker delivered goodies for Jess and her brother.
Jess gets so excited when a PASIC activity pack arrives and her face lights up when she sees what’s in there.
“It’s so nice to see a friendly face and even a wave across the corridor means a lot when you are going through this journey.”
Thankfully Jess is now making good progress and is in the long-term maintenance stage of her treatment and back in school full time.
Now that she is feeling better her and her mum have decided to raise money for PASIC by taking on an incredible swimming challenge – swimming 10 miles (a whopping 640 lengths!) between them.
“Jess wanted to give something back to the people that helped us. She picked PASIC as they are always there for us.”
We’ve been blown away with the support we have had so far and hope that our fundraising will help PASIC support other families like ours.”
The inspiring pair have already raced past their initial fundraising target and would love to raise even more! You can support them by visiting their fundraising page, or get in touch with our fundraising team if you’ve been inspired to take on your own challenge: firstname.lastname@example.org