A Wigan schoolgirl who battled a rare cancer is calling on women to help save lives by signing up for the Race For Life.
Five-year-old Victoria Calland and her mother Jennifer want to inspire people to take part in the Cancer Research UK 5km events at Haigh Woodland Park on Wednesday, May 23 and Pennington Flash on Sunday, June 3.
Victoria, who lives in Swinley, has been chosen to be the special guest at the Wigan event. She will appear on stage with her family and sound the starter horn, before taking part herself. The youngster is believed to be one of only 425 children worldwide diagnosed each year with a rare soft tissue cancer.
She was just three when doctors confirmed in June 2016 she was suffering from embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma after they found a tumour in her bile duct.
Her parents Jennifer and Christopher had become increasingly concerned as she became more and more sick and her skin and eyes turned yellow.
They were initially told a cyst on her bile duct was the cause, but when doctors operated they found the tumour. Victoria - who is known to family and friends as Dee Dee - had to be taken out of nursery to undergo gruelling, but life-saving, treatment at Leeds General Infirmary and Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
At the end of 2016, she travelled to the US for pioneering proton beam therapy followed by further chemotherapy. The trip was partly funded via a crowdfunding campaign. Victoria finished nine months of gruelling treatment in December 2016 and is currently in remission. She now attends Mab’s Cross Primary Community School and appeared on TVs around the country when she took part in Channel 4’s The Secret Life Of Four And Five Year Olds, which follows children as they start school
Jennifer, 43, said: “The family’s experience means we understand all too clearly why Cancer Research UK’s work is so important. It’s thanks to all the mums, grans, daughters and friends who take part in Race For Life and help fund vital research that Cancer Research UK’s scientists and doctors can continue to make strides forward in their efforts to beat the disease. Victoria is doing so well and loves school. Throughout her treatment she was a star.
We saw other children who were going through exactly the same treatment as Victoria flat on their backs. I can’t explain it. We feel grateful every day we are given and we try to give something back by taking every opportunity to raise awareness of childhood cancers.”
Victoria has regular check-ups and will continue to do so for around four more years. But her parents admit the worry never goes away, fearing she could be relapsing on days when she is not herself or gets an ear infection, looks pale or feels tired earlier in the day than expected.