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 is here or you can read how we 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 money for the different charities that have supported us during the most difficult of times. We have helped raise more than £28,000 for Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital where Yasmin is undergoing treatment. Anyone wishing to donate can do so 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 and I will be climbing Ben Nevis in 2014! You can get more information on Facebook or you can follow me on twitter here.
The blog has featured in national newspapers and magazines while the BBC covered our fundraising here and ITV here.

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

Saturday, 12 April 2014

WHY THIS INSPIRATIONAL MOTHER FINALIST IS NOT FEELING SO INSPIRATIONAL

In Mayfair, on the way to the Inspirational Mother Awards
Despite being finalists in the Inspirational Mother and Daughter Awards, I have recently been feeling far from inspirational. We have been constantly in and out of hospital with a multitude of different conditions and it is simply exhausting.
Mothers’ Day weekend, when the awards took place, was marred by Yasmin’s steroid-induced mood swings. They were the worse we have experienced since she first started treatment. Veering from grumpy to sad to uncontrollable crying, it is exhausting dealing with her when she is like this and, of course, you sometimes run out of patience.
The awards event itself was lovely, complete with the fabulous Gloria Hunniford, champagne afternoon tea and the stories from incredible grandmothers, mums,  and their children. But Yasmin was not her usual lively and charming self as she was on her second day of steroids. As well as manifesting itself in a personality change, the steroids are obvious just by looking at Yasmin. Her eyes become darker, more deep set and staring, her face appears to thin initially, even though she usually puts on weight due to the increased appetite.
Mothers' Day lunch in Covent Garden
The next day, Mother’s Day, began well with a lie-in for me, breakfast in bed, followed by lunch in Covent Garden and a stroll in the square to show the kids the funny people pretending to be statues including one person disguised as Yoda floating in mid-air. (Think we worked out how he does it. Do you know?) But, by the afternoon Yasmin’s moods were terrible once more.
Several days later, Andrew left for New Zealand, and the day he left, Isaac got really poorly with some kind of bug that lasted a whole week which meant he didn’t sleep at night and instead I had to spend the nights walking around the living room with him, until Dounya took over for a few hours in the morning.
After five days of sleepless nights nursing Isaac, it was inevitable that Yasmin would run a high temperature so I had to take her into hospital for two more sleepless nights. This was made more difficult by the fact Andrew was away but we were fortunately helped by the lovely Gabriella who brought food and good cheer to our room.
We were supposed to be heading to my parents for the Easter holidays but I cannot go anywhere until I am sure that Yasmin is over her illness – I had to take her back to hospital this morning as her eyes are now sore -  and now it seems I have the same virus the children have had. All three of us have red eyes - signs of adenovirus that Yasmin's consultant thinks we have all had.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Andrew and I took the kids to a beautiful farm in Essex with a play centre and we all had a lovely morning while the children got excited about the monkeys, pigs and goats. But in the car on the way back, Yasmin began to complain of incredible pain in her ear which meant Andrew had to take her into hospital for the afternoon. 
“We can’t even have one family day out without it ending in a hospital visit," he said.
The week before that Yasmin had been well enough for about a month so we decided to risk  taking her swimming for the first time in about a year. Both children absolutely loved it and Yasmin was laughing and playing in the water completely without fear - although all the while Andrew and I were wondering what infection she would pick up.
I commented that I had not seen Yasmin laughing and having so much fun like that – well I can’t remember the last time I saw her just really enjoying herself and forgetting the trauma of her illness. Yes she laughs and jokes with us, but I mean that real belly-laughter when you forget yourself and give yourself up to the moment. 
Dancing in Covent Garden
He replied that she was "just being a normal child". And it is that that was so striking. It is so rare that she gets to just be a normal child, laughing and having fun.

On top of all the usual health worries, treatment and hospital visits, we’ve also been having problems with Yasmin not settling into pre-school because of all the time that she has spent with adults. She finds it difficult to mix in large groups of children. Now, that we recognize this as a problem, we are taking measures to resolve this, with the school. But Yasmin is due to start big school in September and so we are trying desperately to overcome this social anxiety before then.
Along with all of the health worries that we have constantly, we are now discovering a myriad of psychological problems that go along with the treatment and they are not going to be such a quick fix. It has been a difficult month.
October - end of treatment - seems a long, long time away.


Friday, 4 April 2014

WHY WE'RE HIKING BEN NEVIS FOR OUR GRANDDAUGHTER

GUEST POST FROM DERICK ATTWOOD (MY DAD)

Training for Ben Nevis in Tenerife
A team of seventeen, including my wife, Barbara and I, along with family and friends, will be walking (and staggering!), up the highest mountain in the UK in order to raise money for GOSH, on Wednesday, 28 May, this year.

As regular hikers, we are looking forward to, but also feeling nervous, about the challenge. It won't be our first time up Ben Nevis, but we are both 5 years older than last time, and we are taking some novice hikers with us. 
In order to prepare, we have stepped up our 'comfort' hikes in the Welsh Clwyds, we have increased both the mileage and height in order to get ready for the 10 mile, 4409 feet hike up the mountain. Also when we go to the local gym, we seek out the most strenuous leg exercise machines we can find, including a new treadmill in the gym, which inclines up to an amazingly dizzy angle.

On a recent visit to the Lake District, we managed Scafell Pike, The Old Man of Coniston, and Tarn Hows over 3 days, which we thought quite respectable for a group of 4 people with a combined age of 250 years!

We were helped in our mental preparation by attending a yoga & meditation retreat in Snowdonia last weekend, this included a short walk in the mountainous valley of the Glyders, and some outdoor yoga. The mountains all around were covered in snow, a reminder that the 'Ben', would probably in May, be snow-capped on the summit.

In the 1880's, a weather observatory was built on the top of Ben Nevis, and the weather man, Mr Wragge, climbed up the mountain every day for five months over a two-year period to take readings, and this is before the mountain path was constructed! An incredible character. A small wooden hotel annexe was also opened, the Temperance Hotel, run by two young ladies who provided food and a bed during the summer months.  They charged 3 shillings for lunch, and 10 shillings for tea, bed and breakfast, staying in one of the 4 bedrooms.  A fashionable way to ascend the mountain at that time, was by pony, and 21 shillings hired the pony and a guide.  We could do with the ponies to ride up on in May! 

In 2013, 30 climbers carried the parts of a Travelodge bedroom to erect at the summit, it would be handy if it were still there.. Another fund-raising event found a lady carrying pole dancing equipment up and performing the first, (probably last as well) pole dance on top.

However, our challenge, although without pole dancers, will be all worthwhile, the money we raise is for the best cause possible. Great Ormond St is an amazing hospital that is saving children's lives on a daily basis, so, roll on 28th May!

If you would like to sponsor Derick and the hardy team on the hike, click on the link here.






Friday, 28 March 2014

INSPIRATIONAL CHILDREN MAKE MOTHER'S DAY SPECIAL

The day before Isaac was born
I found this photo when searching for an image to accompany my business partner Becky's blog about Mother's Day.
I adore it for the pure love and joy it shows and for the fact that the baby in my belly was born, unexpectedly three weeks early, the very next day.
However, what the picture doesn't show is that Yasmin was already seriously ill at this point. Andrew and I had already taken her into A and E twice with joint pain and the previous week, which was her 2nd birthday, was spent in hospital. Yasmin was misdiagnosed with reactive arthritis and as a consequence the leukaemia which was ravaging her body was not being treated and she was in agonising pain.
A few hours after this picture was taken by Andrew, (he was in panic mode, realising he had not had chance to take any pregnancy pictures and the baby was imminent!) I went into labour and Yasmin spent the night in torment, calling out for mama who couldn't be there.
Hours after our beautiful boy Isaac was born,Yasmin was back in children's ward with her daddy, only to be sent home with paracetamol and a new born baby boy.
So in this picture Yasmin is in pain but, of course, you can't see it because she barely complained and she always does her very best to take pleasure in life no matter what she is going through.
Isaac, one hour old
Yasmin has been blessed with a joyful soul and a great sense of humour and she is always looking for ways to make everybody smile.
Even when she was at her most sick during intense chemotherapy treatment, she fought hard not to let her spirit fade.
And what you can't see about me in this picture is that I am worried sick about my daughter, digesting the news that she has “reactive arthritis”, a condition which could affect her for six months. Of course, just six weeks later we were given the much more awful news that it was not reactive arthritis but leukaemia. 
But what the picture does capture is our joy in each other in that moment, with all worries of illness temporarily forgotten.
And little Isaac, just a few hours away from joining our family, made sure his own cheerful personality kept us all going through the darkest days.
Yasmin and I have been shortlisted in the prestigious Inspirational Mother Awards organised by the Caron Keating Foundation, in the mother and daughter category.
My parents kindly nominated us and wrote beautiful notes about our fundraising and Yasmin’s strength.
All finalists are to attend a swanky afternoon tea reception at the May Fair Hotel this Saturday. We are thrilled and honoured to make the final. Of course, Yasmin doesn't quite understand what all the fuss is about. But I’m sure you will agree that the way in which she has dealt with this horrendous illness with such grace, dignity and bravery has been an inspiration to everyone she meets.

And looking at these beautiful pictures of my children, you can see they are all the inspiration any mother needs!
Happy Mother's Day weekend to everyone.

I'm currently fundraising for Haven House Children's Hospice by hiking Ben Nevis in May. You can sponsor me here.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

WHY I'M HIKING BEN NEVIS FOR HAVEN HOUSE

Meeting TV star Christopher Biggin at Haven House
I started getting in training for my hike up Ben Nevis in May about a month ago – after two training sessions at the gym concentrating on building up my knees, I started to feel confident, thinking I’ll be able to do this.
However, Yasmin was then taken sick and we spent almost a week in hospital after which I felt run down for a week which meant the gym and training were completely abandoned. I am just starting to get into training again now with only two months to go until the huge hike! My parents took ten hours to hike up and down when they completed the challenge before…at the moment the thoughts of ten hours walking up and down hill does not sound too appealing but I guess it’s not called the Ben Nevis Challenge for nothing.
I’m hiking to raise money for Haven House, which is our local hospice in Woodford, where we live, and where Yasmin has been attending for almost two years. I’ve written about my first impression of Haven House and how Yasmin enjoys going there in this post from last year. I can't believe that is almost a year ago now!
Since then, Yasmin has attended regularly, one to three times a month, and it is one of the highlights of her week when she does visit. She generally enjoys art and crafts and sessions with the music therapist.
I have also met a number of families who use the services at Haven House with children with a range of complex conditions, some of whom require 24-hour care. Many use wheelchairs and may be unable to speak or feed themselves.
Actor and television star Christopher Biggins, who supports the work of Haven House, came to take tea with some of the mothers a few months back. You can read the local newspaper report here.
He was hilarious and made everyone laugh and he also took the time to talk to each mother about their child. 
One of the comments that struck me most about the day was when Biggins asked about how difficult life can be when caring full-time for a child who may have complex needs and a limited life-expectancy and one mum replied that “her child’s smile made everything worthwhile”.
It is for incredible families like these that depend on Haven House that I am walking Ben Nevis and also as a huge thank you to all the staff for all they have done to help Yasmin on her journey to good health.
It is Haven House's ten year anniversary this year and they are organising all kinds of activities - so have a look at their website and see if you can get involved.

If you would like to support my challenge, you can donate at my JustGiving page here or you can even come and join us on the hike. 
My parents have organised the hike and they are fundraising for Great Ormond Street where Yasmin has undergone her treatment. If you are interested in joining in, get in touch with my dad at derickattwood@hotmail.com.