About this blog

This blog documents the story of our family after our daughter Yasmin was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was two years old, just six weeks after our son Isaac was born. Now, three, Yasmin is on maintenance treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) until October 2014. The first post can be found here or you can read how my husband Andrew and I felt when we got the diagnosis and when Yasmin started the most intense phase of treatment. The main purpose of the blog is to raise awareness of childhood leukaemia and its impact on families and to raise money for the different charities that have supported us during the most difficult of times. We have helped to raise £33,000 for charity so far, including £30,000 for Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital where Yasmin is undergoing treatment. Anyone wishing to donate can do so at our JustGiving page HERE. All money raised goes directly to into research, better facilities and care. We are now also raising money for Haven House Children's Hospice where Yasmin has been attending for respite care. You can get more information on Facebook or you can follow me on Twitter here.
The blog and our fundraising efforts regularly feature in national newspapers and magazines while the BBC has covered our fundraising here and ITV here.

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HERE ARE OUR LANGUAGE SETTINGS (more Japanese to follow): EN |  JA

Saturday, 23 August 2014

THE BEST SUMMER EVER

Enjoying the hot days in July in the garden
A high-pitched version of Abba’s Dancing Queen came on the radio during breakfast time yesterday and Yasmin and I burst out laughing at the unusual rendition. I picked her up to twirl her round in my arms and, suddenly flooded with emotion, I began to cry. In that instant, I saw the glorious summer we have all enjoyed together and realized the holidays are almost over and I will be losing her soon to school. No more long lazy mornings full of dancing and jokes.
Yasmin has not had a hospital admission since July 12, and the weather has been mostly good, which means we have enjoyed six weeks of park trips, paddling pools and play dates (the highlight the trip up north for the wedding) and all has been UNITERRUPTED BY CANCER. This is in sharp contrast to the previous two summers. Last summer, although punctuated with moments of joy was mostly spent in hospital, while the year before, Isaac’s birth coincided with Yasmin falling seriously ill and the glory of Isaac’s entry into the world was completely overshadowed by the hell we fell into.
So although we have not been able to enjoy exotic holidays and wild adventures, I can honestly say this has been one of the best summers of my life as it has been mostly spent enjoying the laughter of two healthy children, something we have not been able to do so thoroughly before.
Isaac and Yasmin are adorable together at the moment. They are particular close due to all the time we have spent on our own often unable to have visitors or go out due to risk of infection - the result is a beautiful bond.
Right now I am so thankful to have them both and I look at them and feel overcome by emotion at all we have been through together and how far we have come.

But the summer is not yet over - we have two more precious weeks before Yasmin begins school, Isaac starts nursery two afternoons a week and I begin a new job - so there is still lots of time to make more magical memories.

Friday, 15 August 2014

THE WEDDING OF THE YEAR

Isaac makes a run for it as Andrew takes the family group shot
We have just returned home after a wonderful week at my parents up north, for the wedding of my cousin’s daughter Jenny to her childhood sweetheart Andy. It has been a lovely week of catching up with old friends and the kids getting to spend precious time with family – something they have not been able to do much over the past two years due to Yasmin’s treatment keeping us in London.
Yasmin cycles into hospital on her birthday bike
Because we never know whether anything we plan may have to be cancelled it was with nervous excitement that we began to look forward to the wedding on August 9 where Yasmin was to be a bridesmaid and Andrew would be taking the photographs.
July had been a particular roller coaster of a month. (Oh every month is a roller coaster in our home!) Yasmin and Isaac’s birthday party was wonderful but both of their actual birthdays did not go as planned as on each day Yasmin had to go to hospital to have her persistent cough checked over. So instead of having a family day out on July 1, I spent fours hour with Yasmin having X Rays and examinations on children’s ward before she was discharged with antibiotics and we managed a late night birthday meal at Giraffe in Stratford.
Isaac and Yasmin playing on hospital bed on Yasmin's birthday
The following week, the day before I was due to go on a yoga weekend (a belated birthday present from my mum that had already been cancelled the year before) Yasmin spiked a temperature which meant we had to take her into our local once more for a course of intravenous antibiotics.

Enjoying the summer in Epping Forest

I did think of cancelling the trip once more but as Yasmin was not otherwise unwell and the doctors assured us that she could go home on leave during the daytime as long as she was on the ward at night – I decided to go. My recent bout of pneumonia brought on by stress has made me realize that I need to take a break sometimes. So my mother-in-law kindly came over to help with Isaac while Andrew did the overnights with Yasmin. Although Andrew suffered doing three night shifts on the cramped hospital bed, I knew that Yasmin was well and being cared for so I was able to switch off from everything properly for the first time in two years – complete bliss.
Isaac in my wedding hat
The final two weeks of pre-school for Yasmin went well and she attended a number of birthday parties with her friends. On the final day of term we learnt that we had won an appeal for her to continue on to the primary school where she has been attending the nursery – incredibly good news. The stress of preparing for the appeal had been one of the factors in my getting pneumonia.
In the two weeks build up to the wedding I started to relax and think this was all going to happen as planned. Yasmin had been well for a couple of happy summer holiday weeks, playing in the park with friends, in the paddling pool in the garden with Isaac and she even had a birthday pony ride in Epping Forest. (Other than the horrendous cough that she has had for months now and was prescribed an entire month’s course of antibiotics in a bid to shift it.)
Two days before the wedding we headed up north for the rehearsal at the beautiful church where Andrew and I also got married seven years ago. One day before the wedding and the three other younger bridesmaid came over for a tea party with the bride so that Yasmin could get to know them so she wouldn’t be so nervous on the day.
And after several rainy days, the wedding day was filled with glorious sunshine. Yasmin did insist that I went down the aisle with her so I became an extra bridesmaid, and potty-training Isaac started to shout about his toilet habits in the church so my dad had to take him to the park over the road to keep him out of mischief. But it was so lovely to see the kids celebrating with the rest of the family. We had made it and all had been perfect.
At the disco later, Yasmin and Isaac danced the night away – with several renditions of Frozen’s Let It Go with the beautiful bride in her fabulous Disney Princess dress. Finally, they passed out in our arms around midnight and Andrew and I were able to enjoy a last drink holding our sleeping children as we watched the revellers take to the mike for  karaoke. 
Congratulations Jenny and Andy and thank you for making us such a big part of your day. x

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

NEXT BORIS VISITS ANDREW'S EXHIBITION

One of the photographs in Andrew's exhibition Royalty, Politics and War.
Boris Johnson in a helicopter above Hong Kong.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson visited Andrew’s photography exhibition at the Ellwood Atfield Gallery last Wednesday, a week before before announcing he would stand as a Member of Parliament next yeartriggering speculation of a future leadership bid.
The gallery was almost as packed as on the opening night.

All proceeds of sales of the photographs are going to Great Ormond Street.

Monday, 4 August 2014

WHY I HIKED BEN NEVIS FOR MY GRANDAUGHTER

*BEN NEVIS HIKE FUNDRAISING UPDATE*
The Ben Nevis hike arranged by my parents has raised more than £4000 for Great Ormond Street while Greer and I raised more than £2200 for Haven House, bringing the total raised by all activities so far to more than £35,000!

My mum Babs conquering Ben Nevis
Here is my mother Barbara Attwood's blog about the hike:

I’ve supported charities and donated money to worthy causes, but previous to Yasmin’s illness I’d never actually done anything for charity. Thinking about children with life threatening illness makes us uncomfortable. People willingly give money if asked but would rather not dwell on the subject of sick children. When it happens to your child you are confronted with a situation from which there is no turning away. Loving and caring for your child becomes a life changing priority. But you want to do more. You want to be active. Fund raising is a way to alleviate the frustration. A way to give something back for the excellent treatment your child is receiving and to help countless other sick children.  I was inspired to do something by the success of Karen and Andrew’s fundraising.

One day while eating lunch on top of Moel y Parc in the Clwydian National Park, I suggested to Derick, my husband, and our band of hikers that we walk up Ben Nevis to raise funds for GOSH. There was a surprised response punctuated with grumbles and groans as they remembered our previous hike up the Ben five years ago. It had been a long hard slog in temperatures of 80 degrees, after which we all agreed that we would never do it again. Following the initial shock they changed their minds and thoughts of helping children like Yasmin inspired us to take the challenge again.

Twelve months later, sponsorship forms filled in, we were on the mountain with 13 companions. It was the perfect day. There was no mist. The splendour of the Scottish landscape revealed itself as we plodded up the stony pathways, laughing and joking about who’d make it to the top. We were touched by the camaraderie of fellow hikers who seeing our GOSH t-shirts, urged us on and gave donations.

Separated from the group, walking alone in the majesty of the mountain, I was overcome with sadness thinking about why we were hiking up Ben Nevis again. I was sorry that Karen couldn’t make it because Yasmin had once again been hospitalised with what should have been a normal childhood illness. Why did this have to happen to our granddaughter? Why has her childhood been blighted in this way.  I thought about my children when they were small, and how awful I felt when they caught a cold or had a tummy bug. How I wanted to protect them and make the world right for them.  I thought how hard it must be for all parents of sick children. Then I remembered the strength and courage Karen and Andrew have shown, united in their love for their children.

Picturing Yasmin with her impish smile, I was uplifted. Her spirit and sense of humour never fail in spite of the severity of her treatment. She’s an inspiration. At that moment, with Yasmin on my mind, I raised my head to gasps of fear and delight coming from hikers on the path in front of me in response to what had suddenly come into view. The slopes leading up to the distant summit were covered in an abundance of snow. The whiteness, the stark simplicity, dotted with tiny bodies winding their way up through the frozen beauty. As I looked to the left a bottomless drift of snow clung to the mountain’s edge, unspoiled, like an avalanche waiting to threaten the lives of unwary walkers who strayed from the path. I unhooked my two sticks and put studs on my boots. As I caught up with Derick, we plodded through the snow together, looking ahead to see the younger members of our group who had raced up to the top, looking back to check on the more cautious hikers following behind.
United at the summit, we posed for photographs waving the GOSH banner. It was the pinnacle of a year’s preparation. We hugged and congratulated each other. We were on a high, not just because we’d climbed the UK’s highest mountain but because we’d raised funds to help Yasmin and children like her.


Thank you to all the wonderful people who came on the coach trip and supported us, thanks to all those who attempted the climb and those who made it to the top. Is anyone signing up for next year?

You can still donate at my parents page here.

Monday, 21 July 2014

WHY I HATE AND WHY I LOVE STEROIDS


Meal out on Yasmin's birthday after afternoon spent in hospital
Yasmin is on day four of her monthly five-day course of steroids. I am counting down to the end of treatment by how many courses of steroids we have yet to endure – barring the unscheduled hospitals stays, they remain the worst part of treatment. We have three left until October.

I hate steroids because almost immediately my usually happy, fun, although cheeky, daughter is replaced by a mini monster as described in The Story of the Steroid Monster.
It means all outings, parties and holidays which fall at that time are half ruined by her foul moods.
I hate having to state to everyone wherever we go, that my daughter is on steroids as way as an explanation for her bad behavior.
But most of all, I hate steroids because they make my daughter sad. She has no control of her emotions at this time and is overwhelmed by the anger and fear that they can induce in her. The only thing I can do is hold her. How she clings to me throughout this time.

I love steroids because when Yasmin took them for five weeks at the beginning of treatment, they ensured my daughter, all skin and bones and gaunt pale cheeks, piled on weight. My own beautiful little Michelin Man.


But most of all, I love steroids because they are a part of the treatment that is the cure.