Childhood Cancer Awareness Appeal

Each year UCLH staff treat and support hundreds of children with cancer, using some of the worlds most advanced technology. Over the years, we are proud to have provided our paediatric services with much-needed supplies including Wi-Fi, art therapy classes and rehabilitation toys and games. Plus, later this year, we will refurbish our T11 paediatric ward parent's kitchen.   

We spent time with one of our very special paediatric cancer nurses Ellie, who was treated at UCLH as a child. We were so inspired by Ellie's story, that we have launched our Childhood Cancer Awareness Appeal to support our paediatric cancer department by improving a number of facilities and services for our young patients.

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Ellie's journey from patient to nurse

Ellie was only eight years old when she made the decision to pursue a career in nursing. After 22 months of treatment for osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, she was inspired by the support and expertise of hospital staff to provide the same care to others in need.

Fast forward 14 years to September 2022, Ellie is back on the ward at UCLH, not as a patient but as a paediatric cancer nurse, reminding us of the incredible impact that compassionate care can have.

In December 2008, Ellie was hit by a ball whilst playing at Brownie’s after school club – her knee swelled alarmingly and disproportionately.

"The people running the club knew something wasn’t right and called my mum immediately. My mum took one look and took me to the local GP, but they didn’t think it was anything serious. Three days later, my leg gave way as I was going up the stairs. My mum took me to a hospital emergency department and insisted on a scan. That’s when they saw a mass, and I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma."

Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer, which mainly effects children and young adults under the age of 25. Around 30 new cases of osteosarcoma in children are diagnosed each year in Great Britain, and 45 in teenagers and young adults.

Ellie went through months of treatment at several hospitals, including UCLH. She had six chemotherapy cycles, losing a lot of weight. A surgical operation removed the tumour on her femur, as well as the bones from her knee and leg, which were replaced with metal rods. Being so weak from the chemotherapy, Ellie’s recovery was not straightforward.

“I had my surgery in March 2009, and got the ‘all clear’ at the end of 2010. Not all patients’ treatment takes so long, but mine was delayed due to infection, then the skin graft and physiotherapy. I had three types of chemotherapy, which have different side effects.”

Ellie’s experience helps her to guide and support her patients. “I can empathise and sympathise with patients. And that makes them trust me a bit more, you know, I’ve been there, and I can tell them the truth about it. I’m so grateful I get to be there for these children in the same way that nurses like my line manager Faye was there for me when I was being treated.”

Faye (Ward Sister for T12) appreciates the way Ellie’s story highlights the vital role nurses play in the lives of young cancer patients, providing clinical and emotional support at a very scary time. 

“Ellie’s journey from being a cancer patient to becoming a nurse is a testament to her resilience, determination, and compassion. Her personal journey has influenced her career choice in wanting to be a nurse and this is reflected in her caring and empathic attitude towards all her patients and their families.

“We are proud of Ellie and all of our team who care for our families. We are also really pleased that she has chosen to use her story to help us raise funds for our patients on the ward.”

Through Ellie’s story, the UCLH Charity Cancer Fund is raising money for a new reading and quiet area, a portable toys and games trolley for bedside play, and an improved bell-ringing experience.


The Cancer Fund has created our Childhood Cancer Awareness Appeal to fund much-needed environmental improvements to our children's cancer ward. Please consider making a donation today.

We want to make three specific improvements.

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Create a new reading and quiet area for the children on the ward. Some of the children's treatment lasts for months, and it's important to have a quiet and calm space for them to relax and spend time​​​​​ with their families or our Play Specialists. It will also provide them with books and educational toys to continue to encourage learning. 

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Provide a toy and games trolley. Many children on the ward are in recovery or too sick to leave their beds. By providing the ward with a mobile games trolley, the fun can come to them. Some children also benefit from 'positive play' where they spend time with the Play Specialists who use toys and games to explain their treatment. We will fully stock the trolley with toys and games too.

 

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We love hearing the bell ring on the children's cancer ward. Our young patients ring the bell to signify the end of their chemo, a significant improvement, or finally being cancer free. This is a special moment for the children, their families and our staff. It also brings hope to other patients on the ward. We are going to enhance our bell-ringing experience to make it even more special and create a moment which will truly never be forgotten.

"Thanks to everyone who donates to the Cancer Fund and supports the appeal. You'll  be making a huge difference to the experience of the children I help to care for and their families here at UCLH." - Ellie 

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