A Wigan schoolgirl, who inspired one of the most extraordinary fund-raising campaigns in borough history after her diagnosis with an often lethal form of cancer, still does not fully realise just how fortunate she has been.
Those were the thoughts of Emma Hoolin’s mum Jill as they celebrated another landmark in her battle against high risk neuroblastoma.
That vicious illness has claimed many North West youngsters’ lives, including that of Wigan’s own Braiden Prescott, since Emma was found to have it almost seven years ago.
But a huge charity drive, successful pioneering overseas treatment and incredible dedication from Emma’s family in keeping her away from germs and pollution have meant that she is now celebrating five years since her gruelling therapy ended.
The Whitley 10-year-old has just one more year at Woodfield Primary School before following sister Lily to Standish High, is so full of beans these days that she plays for Latics’ girls under-11s and parents Jill and Mark say they aren’t quite as worried when she picks up regulation bugs as they once were.
But they remain on their guard, even though each passing year without a relapse lessens the chance of one.
Looking back on what has happened in the last seven years, we are the luckiest family in the world. Emma still doesn’t realise how lucky she has beenJill Hoolin
When the Observer backed an emergency crusade to raise £211,000 in less than 100 days so that Emma could get the maximum benefit from immunotherapy in a US children’s hospital, the target was met with more than three weeks to spare thanks to an astonishing number of charitable events and donations.
The cash continued to build well past the £300,000 mark and tens of thousands of it remains unspent.
Jill recently obtained a five-year extension from the Neuroblastoma Alliance so that the surplus can be reserved in case of any further treatment, heaven forbid, is necessary for Emma and so that a new campaign of equal scale isn’t required in that event.
Thereafter the cash goes to the alliance to help other poorly youngsters.
Jill said: “Looking back on what has happened in the last seven years, we are the luckiest family in the world. Emma still doesn’t realise how lucky she has been.
“Passing the five-year marker means the now goes to just yearly check-ups.
“But we can’t be too blase. We still filter her water and there is an air filter to her bedroom but she’s no longer only eating organic and we don’t panic so much when she gets a bug. She is developing and growing and we are very pleased.”