After three gruelling months of cancer treatment in the USA, 10-year-old Amelia Brome is now fully recovered and back to her favourite occupation – swimming.
The Preston schoolgirl underwent life-saving proton beam therapy in Florida after she was diagnosed with the rare nasal cancer Rhabdomyosarcoma.
Although the treatment was paid for by the NHS, her parents Michael and Cheryl had to raise £26,000 to cover the family’s living costs in America for three months, travel bills and other expenses.
They also faced separation after Michael was initially turned down for a visa and only managed to gain access to American with the help of his MP.
But the Ingol family are now over the moon that the treatment has been successful and sport-mad Amelia is back in the pool.
They’re not the type of people to ask for help, but the community really pulled together and the response from people since the story went in the paper has been unreal.
Michael said: “This is a moment we feared at times we might not see.
“Amelia couldn’t wait. She just loves to pretend she is a dolphin or a mermaid.”
From next year, families like the Bromes will be spared the lengthy and expensive trip to America, as The Christie hospital in Manchester is taking delivery of a proton beam machine.
It will mean people from Lancashire will be able to having the ground-breaking treatment in the UK.
Amelia first received her diagnosis towards the end of 2016, when she developed a cold, which she could not shake off.
After six weeks, her mother took her to her GP who prescribed antibiotics for sinusitis.
When Amelia’s symptoms did not improve and she began having severe headaches, Cheryl took her to Royal Preston Hospital, where sinusitis was again confirmed.
It was not until a new GP noticed that Amelia’s eye was partially closed that she was sent to RPH for an urgent MRI and later that same day, Michael and Cheryl were given the devastating news that a sizeable mass had been identified in Amelia’s nasal cavity. A bed had already been organised for her at Manchester Children’s Hospital.
Manchester Royal Children’s Hospital diagnosed a nasal rhabdomyosarcoma (an uncommon soft-tissue sarcoma) and she began chemotherapy. She was then referred to leading cancer centre The Christie, where her consultant, Dr Roval Colaco told her parents to prepare themselves to go to the USA as Amelia’s cancer was inoperable and that proton beam therapy offered her the best chance of long-term survival.
Michael said: “We were almost elated, because at least the consultants knew what it was and what they were going to do about it. The worst nightmare would have been if they did not know what it was, or how to treat it.”
Although the treatment was financed by the NHS, The Bromes still faced having to find a sizeable amount of cash for travel and living expenses.
Nicola Dickinson, family friend who works with Amelia’s mum Cheryl at Flame Urban Spa in Garstang Road, Preston, began a collection in the salon.
However, disaster struck when thieves targeted the salon, adn made off with the charity box.
However, after an appeal in the Lancashire Post, donations flooded in and a fund of £26,000 was raised. Nicola said at the time: “It meant they have no worries about bills and they can relax as much as possible while they’re out in America.
“They’re not the type of people to ask for help, but the community really pulled together and the response from people since the story went in the paper has been unreal.”
Amelia, who is a pupil at Harris Primary School in Fulwood, and Cheryl flew out to Jacksonville, Florida, in the middle of April this year, but Michael had to wait another week as he was refused a US visa twice and only succeeded in being granted one after getting the support of his local MP. “It was pretty horrible having to drop my wife and daughter at the airport whilst I was stuck on my own at home,” says Michael.
“How can you split up a family at a time like this?”
Amelia went through 30 sessions of PBT in Jacksonville, Monday to Friday and the family returned to Preston in early July.
Michael said: “The treatment we had in the USA was brilliant and the staff were great, but lovely as it was, you are 8,000 miles away from home and your support networks.
“It’s a massive upheaval for the whole family and not everyone is as lucky with their employers as Cheryl and I are.
“It would all have been so much easier if Amelia had been able to have her treatment in Manchester, and we are so glad knowing that proton beam therapy is coming to The Christie next year.”
She’s ‘bright and happy’
Amelia’s consultant, Dr Rovel Colaco said: “Amelia is a bright and happy child with an excellent chance of recovery following the treatment she received in Jacksonville. However, in the future, patients like Amelia can look forward to the opportunity of having PBT here in the UK closer to their friends and family and with less upheaval during a very stressful time in their lives.”
Joy at girl’s return
Faz Sadri, fitness manager at Total Fitness in Preston, said: “It was incredible to see Amelia splashing around in the water and getting back to her normal self. Everyone at the club is so pleased to see how she’s reacted to the treatment.”