Victoria is looking forward to home
Three-year-old Victoria Calland travelled to Jacksonville with her mum Jennifer last month to have proton beam therapy after a tumour was discovered in her bile duct and she was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in June.
Victoria, who lives in Wigan with her mum, dad Christopher and five-year-old-brother Arthur, had an operation to remove the tumour but test showed that some cancer cells still remained.
She will undergo several course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy as well as the proton beam therapy to rid her body of the cancer and prevent it coming back.
Jennifer said: “The program that University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute has put together for their UK visitors is really good.
“Our apartment was ready and waiting for us, and car rental was arranged for pick up the next morning. We settled in very quickly.
“We’ve fallen into an actually enjoyable daily routine with the proton beam treatment.
Victoria fasts daily as she needs to be placed under general anaesthetic so that she can lay still enough to safely receive the proton beam treatment.
“Everyone at the proton institute knows who Victoria is because of her bubbly bright personality.
“The recovery nurse sets Victoria up for ‘Dizzy Time’, which is what Victoria calls going under anaesthetic. She also calls her anaesthesiologist, “Dr Dizzy”.
Victoria is currently having proton beam therapy every week day and hasn’t been able to spend as much time going out and about as she wanted.
Jennifer said: “Victoria’s not been able to get out as much as I would have liked. Her ability to fight infection has been at an all-time low due to the chemo.
“So she’s been spending most of her time at the apartment to keep her from catching seasonal illnesses common for most children her age.
“We’ve been fortunate, since I’m American with many friends scattered across the United States.
“My friends have been kind enough to send care packages with loads of toys, arts and crafts for Victoria to do to pass the time.
“We’ve had a couple of worrisome moments when it’s come to her health, but for the most part, Victoria’s been very well in herself and seems quite happy.
“Victoria was meant to go into hospital two weeks ago for her next course of chemotherapy, however her blood counts indicated that her body hadn’t healed enough from the last course of chemo to safely deploy this next course of chemo.
“In addition, her body has taken a little bit more time to recover due to her radiotherapy, which I am given to understand is not too unusual for children in this stage of their treatment.”
Victoria and Jennifer were also caught up in the chaos of Hurricane Matthew but managed to escape any major damage from the storm.
They spent the duration of the storm at Wolfson’s Childrens Hospital on the Haematology/Oncology ward while Victoria underwent a course of chemotherapy.
Christopher and Arthur have remained at home while Victoria has her treatment as Arthur is on the autistic pathway and they decided the change would be too much for him.
“2016 has been a ridiculous year for our family.,” Jennifer added.
“Our daughter has one of the most aggressive forms of childhood cancer, but we got lucky that it appeared in a place that caused problems right away so we were able to catch it early which gives her a great prognosis.
“We got lucky to be able to participate in the NHS’s Proton Beam program which gives Victoria the very best chance against not only her cancer, but also against the lifelong debilitating side effects often associated with radiotherapy treatment.
“A deadly hurricane came bearing on us while we’re in the US receiving this life saving treatment, and had the eye of the hurricane been 10 miles closer into shore, we would have had a very different outcome—and we got ‘lucky’ there.
“We are very much looking forward to completing Victoria’s proton beam therapy here and returning to a much quieter life in Wigan in mid-November.”