I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone that knows anything about me, that I am hugely passionate about beating childhood cancer for very obvious reasons. I grew up with a child that suffered so cruelly at the hands of cancer. I used to play in the playrooms at Great Ormond Street Hospital with children that were really really ill. It has always been apparent to me that some children have to suffer with this horrific disease at such a young age. These children are incredibly brave, too brave for me to be able to put into words. This is why I am a huge supporter of the Cancer Research UK Little Stars Awards scheme for childhood cancer sufferers and their siblings. It’s amazing that the charity is able to give these children a little something to let them know we all think they are amazing.
I came across Ruth Hillman on Twitter through some CRUK related Twitter friends. The first thing I noticed about Ruth is that she is a very kind and lovely lady. I then realised her daughter was a childhood cancer survivor.
Georgia Hillman is honestly one of the cutest children I have ever come across, which is no mean feat when you consider how many siblings and cousins I have! She is also one of the most incredibly brave children I have ever come across and I am going to share her story here with you today.
Georgia was just one year and two days old when she was diagnosed with Wilm’s Tumour (a kind of kidney cancer) in August 2008. Ruth came across a lump whilst blowing raspberries on her daughter’s tummy one day. This broke my heart as I always used to blow raspberries on my sister’s stomach’s when they were little. The idea of such a cute display of affection between mother and daughter leading to a cancer diagnosis is really upsetting. However it does point out the importance of mother’s intuition – Ruth could feel there was something not quite right with her daughter.
Ruth says “The previous Thursday I’d been at a coffee morning where I’d been tickling another boy’s tummy and I noticed his was all squidgy. I didn't think much of it at the time, but that night, alarm bells started to ring…..I thought she’d maybe swallowed a toy as she was always putting something in her mouth”.
At first Ruth was told there was nothing wrong. She wasn't satisfied with this answer and asked to be referred to a pediatrician After being told a referral could take up to six months, Ruth spent the morning calling private hospitals and managed to find one that would see Georgia immediately Ruth says: “I believe that Georgia was pretty much diagnosed over the phone as I was told to bring her in immediately”.
Georgia was taken to X-Ray as soon as they arrived at the hospital. A nurse chaperoned Ruth and Georgia everywhere they went and everything moved at a fast paced. Whilst Georgia was having a ultrasound, Ruth asked the nurse if she should summon her husband home as he was away working in Birmingham. Ruth vividly remembers the nurse’s reply: “ I've never seen a child rushed through x-ray and ultrasound quite so quickly in all my years as a nurse; if it were me, I’d be getting my husband straight away.”
Tests revealed a tumour the size of a football. At first they thought it was coming from Georgia’s liver but further tests showed it was coming from her kidney and was spreading out through the poor little thing’s abdomen with all her organ’s being pushed aside to make room. They were also told that it had spread. In just a few days, the Hillman’s had gone from excitedly celebrating Georgia’s first birthday to a sleepless night in a hospital waiting to hear news about their sick child.
Georgia had six weeks of intensive chemotherapy which, thankfully, reduced the huge tumour to the size of a Satsuma. She then had keyhole surgery to remove the tumour and another seven months of chemotherapy. She also had three blood transfusions. An incredible amount of trauma for her to go through at such a young age. She didn't understand what was happening but she’s a clever little girl and could understand everything that had to happen. Ruth says: “If the nurses didn't complete a procedure properly, she wouldn't clap….as soon as they did, she would clap and smile.”
Georgia was very sick throughout her treatment; Ruth says she was sick nine times in one day, which happened to be poor Ruth’s birthday. She had a peg inserted for feeding and to have anti sickness drugs administered in January. Incredibly, she didn't need it for eating but it did put a stop to all the vomiting. Sadly, the peg became infected and in late April poor Georgia spent a week fighting for her life when the infection became really bad. Ruth says: “When she was not sick, she was a very bubbly, happy child and so very brave. She would never cry or whinge. I know Ben or I would never have coped half as well.”
Georgia completed her treatment in June 2009 and doctors declared her free from cancer in July. She has progressed and gone from strength to strength ever since. Her very proud mum says:
“People are amazed by Georgia when they hear what she has been through. She’s happy, healthy, cheeky….normal….child with nothing to show for her ordeal other then a few scars on her tummy. We feel so very lucky to have Georgia still with us and certainly could not be prouder of a lovely little girl who has achieve so much in five short years.”
Exactly four years to the day after her first MRI and biopsy, Georgia started school. She continues to thrive every day and is a very cute and clever little girl.
Georgia’s dad nominated Georgia for a Little Star award and she had a star shaped trophy to remind her of how brave she has been from such a young age. She was chosen by CRUK to attend a party at London Zoo as an ambassador for the charity and spent a day mingling with celebrities and dancing with Same Difference!
I, for one, think Georgia is an incredible young girl and I am also astounded by the strength of her parents who have also been to hell and back. The Hillman’s are a walking example of making sure you trust your instincts and push for second opinions if you feel you are being fobbed off by doctors. I wish them a very happy and healthy life together and hope Georgia continues to shine and progress. I’m hoping to be able to meet both her and Ruth in the very near future to tell them how incredible they are in person – hint hint to our mutual friends at CRUK!!!!
If you know of a brave child who should receive a Little Star Award, please do take a minute to nominate them here: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/news/little_star_awards/do-you-know-a-little-star
I’m sending lots of love, as always, to every single child affected by cancer and to their families too. It’s a horrible thing to have to go through and I’m proud to say I’m part of the huge team of people working hard to make childhood cancer a thing of the past.