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Coronavirus threat to five-year-old Hornchurch cancer patient Isla’s life-saving treatment

PUBLISHED: 09:49 25 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:08 26 March 2020

Isla Caton and her mother Nicola.

Isla Caton and her mother Nicola.

Isla Caton's family.

The mother of a five-year-old cancer patient says she is facing a nightmare after the coronavirus pandemic threatened her daughter’s access to life-saving treatment.

Isla Caton, who requires specialist cancer treatment in Spain.Isla Caton, who requires specialist cancer treatment in Spain.

Nicola Caton, from Hornchurch, said travel disruption was forcing her family to relocate to Spain until the pandemic is over, whilst the loss of tens of thousands of pounds from cancelled fundraising events had left them wondering how they would pay for it.

She issued a public plea for donations or fundraising ideas, telling the Recorder: “We are running out of things to do.”

Her daughter Isla has been receiving pioneering treatment in Barcelona for neuroblastoma – a cancer which develops in the nerve cells. Until recently, the family had been travelling regularly between Havering and Spain.

But as the coronavirus pandemic continues to close borders and place cities on lockdown, the family has been warned that after their next flight, booked in early April, airlines will not be able to guarantee ongoing travel.

August: Michael Hook with daughter Isla Caton celebrating her birthday before heading off to Barcelona for treatment for neuroblastoma cancer.August: Michael Hook with daughter Isla Caton celebrating her birthday before heading off to Barcelona for treatment for neuroblastoma cancer.

Nicola said this had left the couple facing a stark choice: move to Barcelona until the pandemic is over, or possibly forfeit their daughter’s access to the treatment.

She said: “The doctors in Spain are very positive in thinking that actually, we can get her clear again.

“We’ve just got to keep fighting. We are more concerned with actually getting her to Spain, because if we don’t, there’s nothing here. This treatment is only available in Spain or New York.”

But relocating to Spain will increase the family’s already hefty bills. Isla’s treatment bill for this year will be around £100,000 and the relocation could add tens of thousands more.

Isla Caton celebrating her birthday with family and friends before going to Spain for treatment.Isla Caton celebrating her birthday with family and friends before going to Spain for treatment.

“The rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Barcelona is about £4,000 a month,” Nicola told the Recorder. “And we’ll still be paying rent and Council Tax on our home here as well. And we’ll have to rent a car in Spain.”

Just as coronavirus has seen the family’s bills rocket, it has also seen their fundraising collapse.

Social distancing rules introduced by the Government have forced the cancellation of charity events, including a celebrity football match, a ball, a boxing match and an event at West Ham with retired player Billy Bonds.

“Our income has pretty much stopped,” said Nicolas niece, Carly Judd, who organises much of the family’s fundraising. “A lot of our fundraising was through West Ham. We used to do a lot of bucket-shaking over there. But now all the matches have been cancelled.”

Isla Caton celebrating her birthday with family and friends before going to Spain for treatment.Isla Caton celebrating her birthday with family and friends before going to Spain for treatment.

“To be honest, all of this is just an absolute nightmare,” said Nicola. “We had so much fundraising planned and every single thing has had to stop. Those would have taken us up to about £80,000. That would have paid for the rest of Isla’s treatment for this year.”

The latest setback comes just over six months after specialist items worth thousands of pounds were stolen from the family in a burglary in Spain.

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Thieves made off with the family’s mobility car, Isla’s buggy, a car seat and a laptop full of treasured family photos.

There With You - the Romford Recorder's campaign to help everyone get through coronavirus crisis.There With You - the Romford Recorder's campaign to help everyone get through coronavirus crisis.

Isla was first diagnosed in March 2016 at age two. After chemotherapy failed to cure her, the family discovered the pioneering treatment in Spain.

The ‘humanised antibody’ treatment attacks Isla’s nerve endings, to stop her cancer from being able to grow. She has been receiving the treatment, paid for by charitable donations, for just over two years.

In late 2019, he was declared cancer-free – but a subsequent scan showed the cancer had reappeared.

“It was working, but we had to stop because she’s relapsed several times,” said Nicola. “But they have given her another six months of the treatment, which is actually quite rare, because they think they can get her clear again.”

Isla Caton celebrating her birthday with family and friends before going to Spain for treatment.Isla Caton celebrating her birthday with family and friends before going to Spain for treatment.

Nicola said donations through Isla’s JustGiving charity page would be gladly accepted and that anybody wanting to donate by cheque could reach the family through their Facebook page, ‘Isla Caton’s Fight Against Neuroblastoma’.

She added: “And if anybody has got any ideas for how we can fundraise, please contact us. We are running out of things to do. Even if they can’t donate money, it could be prizes that we can raffle or auction. Because everyone is having it hard at the moment. We are all trying to get through something that no one ever thought they would have to go through.”

Donations can be made by visiting: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/thebradleyloweryfoundation/islacaton.

Romford cancer charity vows not to turn away new cases, despite coronavirus funding hit

A ROMFORD charity for families affected by neuroblastoma vowed not to turn anybody away, despite coronavirus damaging its income.

Mitchell’s Miracles said the virus was causing havoc for clients, as breadwinners faced choosing between going to work or being with their families.

Founder Kristel Huth said working fathers had been told to move into a different household, as children undergoing chemotherapy must be completely isolated from the outside world during the pandemic.

She predicted this, coupled with job losses, could lead to an increase in applications for financial aid - while the charity has had to cancel all fundraising events, generate roughly half its income.

“We can’t even go out to shops and collect out charity tins because they’re all closed,” said Ms Huth. “But I don’t want to have to start rationing any support. Any family that comes through, we will support.”


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