Yorkshire family of Amelie, who was diagnosed with leukaemia at two: “We didn’t know where we would be on Christmas Day” | Christmas at Candlelighters
Shortly before Christmas 2022, Jo and Tom Adams, from Baildon, West Yorkshire, were given the worst news for a parent: their daughter, Amelie, had been diagnosed with cancer.
After a couple of trips to the doctors, suspected tonsilitis, and a visit to the local hospital, a nurse arranged for Amelie to have some blood tests. An hour later, they received a call saying to bring her back for a blood transfusion. This was the first time the word “leukaemia” was mentioned.
Within three days, Amelie had been diagnosed and had begun a two-year treatment plan.
Jo, Amelie’s mum, said:
We feel like we’ve wiped some of this time from our memories now. It was such a big shock.
Leukaemia is normally treated with chemotherapy, which can cause several debilitating side effects on a child’s body, including hair loss, weight gain or loss, persistent nausea and vomiting, and a sore mouth and gut, which is often extremely painful.
In the first few days, we met one of the Candlelighters Family Support Workers.
She was brilliant and explained all that was available to us through Candlelighters, from emotional to practical and financial support.
Amelie was born during lockdown, and Jo and Tom were looking forward to 2022 being their first normal Christmas for their new family. But when Amelie was diagnosed, that all changed.
Jo doesn’t remember going Christmas shopping that year:
We didn’t even think about Christmas. We hadn’t put our tree up. It was all a bit of a blur.
As Amelie was on treatment over Christmas, it was unsure whether the family would be in the hospital on Christmas Day. This made it impossible for them to plan with their family, and especially difficult for anyone to visit, as Amelie’s immune system was weak, and it was important she didn’t catch anything.
My mum had a cold a few days before Christmas, and was really worried about seeing her. We wanted Amelie to be with her family, but it was so hard.
Soon after her diagnosis, Amelie, Jo, and Tom received an invite to the Candlelighters Christmas Party. Candlelighters aim to make Christmas as magical as possible for children and families coping with childhood cancer, and their annual Christmas Party provides a space for families to make wonderful festive memories together.
As soon as we walked in, we felt special.
Amelie was just getting back onto her feet after her treatment, she was on steroids, and she hadn’t been her usual, smiley self in weeks. We finally saw her smile again at the Candlelighters Christmas Party.
For Jo and Tom, the party had come at the perfect time. It gave them a chance to get into the festive mood, and see Amelie have fun for the first time in what felt like forever to her parents. They didn’t have to worry about planning, or making sure she wouldn’t catch anything. Candlelighters, and the other families at the party, understood what they were going through.
There was so much to see – each time we walked round a corner, there was something new. There were so many characters – stormtroopers, Elsa and Anna… The big hall was jam-packed full of activities and music. Everyone made Amelie, and all the children there, feel so special.
This year, the Candlelighters Christmas Party took place on Sunday 3 December.
The party gave us the boost we needed to get us through the next phase of her treatment. Seeing Amelie on the dancefloor was amazing, and we started to see the light.
Candlelighters is asking supporters to fund their mission to bring festive magic to children facing cancer, by donating towards the cost of a party place. Each place at the party costs £32, and any amount helps to bring joy to a child with cancer at Christmas.
Emily Wragg, CEO of Candlelighters, says:
All year round, we see the devastating impact that childhood cancer can have on a family. Christmas can be an especially difficult time for a family with a child who has cancer, and we want to give these families happy memories that last a lifetime. It’s all thanks to the generosity of the public that we can be there for families when they need support, and every pound donated helps bring Christmas magic to a family facing childhood cancer.
To find out more about Candlelighters’ Christmas Appeal and how you can still make Christmas magical for children with cancer, visit: www.candlelighters.org.uk/chrismas-at-candlelighters