A ten year old girl from Cardiff has returned from The Christie Hospital, a £125 million NHS facility in Manchester which opened in December 2018, after receiving Proton Beam Therapy to treat a rare form of cancer.
Ffion Hood-Koc, who attends Glyncoed Primary School in Cardiff, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, an extremely rare and aggressive form of cancer, in February 2019 and is the first child from Wales to receive this revolutionary treatment at The Christie Hospital.
The family were supported by LATCH Welsh Children’s Cancer Charity who covered the cost of travel and living expenses whilst the family travelled the two hundred mile journey. LATCH also funds transport and hotel costs for siblings in order to avoid family separation at this difficult time which enabled Ffion’s loved ones to be close by.
Proton beam therapy uses a precision high-energy beam of particles to destroy cancer cells. The pioneering radiation therapy causes significantly less damage to surrounding tissue/organs which is especially important for children as their brain is still developing.
Over 1,000 children and adults from the UK have received Proton Beam Therapy in the past five years, but until last year they were sent abroad to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville, Florida, where they would generally stay for two months. This involved a great deal of hardship and separation at a time when families are already feeling the stress and worry of cancer treatment.
Brave Ffion had her own mask made for the treatment which allowed the beam to focus directly on the tumour, and was fully involved in the process to ensure she remained calm and distracted during this unfamiliar procedure.
Ffion’s mum, Alison, said: “The support we’ve received from LATCH, Ffion’s school and our community has been overwhelming. When we were told that Ffion was set to go to Manchester for treatment we were initially quite overwhelmed but our LATCH Social Worker, Helen, was calm and guided us well through the process, helping us to book our train tickets, alleviating any financial worries we had and liaising with the team at the Christie Centre.”
She continued: “Since Ffion’s diagnosis we’ve benefitted enormously from LATCH’s support, including the use of their on-site accommodation, and I can’t speak highly enough of this wonderful charity and their services for children with cancer and leukaemia as well as their families. Having their support follow us on this unexpected pathway in Ffion’s treatment meant the world and we couldn’t wait to get back to the LATCH Office to show off Ffion’s mask and to thank them for holding our hand every step along the way.”
Ffion’s outlook is looking much more hopeful following this revolutionary treatment, and she’s back in Cardiff attending school when not seeing out the rest of her course of treatment at the Children’s Hospital for Wales.
Alison added: “We are absolutely delighted to be back home and Ffion has gone straight back into her chemotherapy treatment, but end is in sight at last. We just can’t wait to get back to normality again and we’re so very grateful that this essential treatment is here in the UK to help us and other families in the future.”
You can find out more about Proton Beam Therapy here.