Harpenden child with cancer fundraising for experimental treatment in New York

Isla Austin. Picture: Rick Austin

Isla Austin. Picture: Rick Austin - Credit: Archant

The parents of a toddler with a rare form of cancer are desperately fundraising to obtain an experimental vaccine which offers her best chance at survival.

Isla Austin. Picture: Rick Austin

Isla Austin. Picture: Rick Austin - Credit: Archant

Two-year-old Isla Austin, who lives in Leverstock Green, was found to have stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma in late 2016 after a growth on her cheek was initially misdiagnosed as mumps.

When neither of her two siblings contracted the infectious illness, her parents Rick and Anna started to suspect something was wrong. On her first birthday, doctors in St Albans told them Isla actually had cancer.

The tumour on her face was just the tip of the iceberg, with a primary 9cm tumour on her kidney and two more secondary growths in her legs and ribs.

Isla started treatment almost immediately and has since undergone seven and a half hours of surgery, radiotherapy, and intense chemotherapy four times a day.

Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital had to extract 10,000,000 stem cells from Isla by blood transfusion to protect them from the blasts of radiation designed to kill the terminal lumps.

Rick said: “We felt numb, one moment you are preparing for her birthday and the next moment you are being told she has cancer.

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“We just couldn’t believe it was happening. You are numb with shock. Your life is turned around.

“These treatments aren’t kind on such a little child, but she has made many amazing recoveries. Her determination shines through the smile on her face. She is simply an inspiration to everyone privileged to know her.”

Isla finished her treatment program on Christmas Eve and although she is currently clear of cancer, the relapse rate for the rare illness is very high.

If it comes back, her survival rate is only ten per cent and for every reoccurrence the mortality rates become more bleak.

A pioneering new clinical trial at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center aims to lower the chance of relapse for children like Isla and Rick and Anna hope to send her there to try it out.

Howver, the Bivalent Vaccine would cost £155,000 - an “overwhelming” amount for the family.

Rick said: “It would be fantastic if you could get her over there because it’s awful thinking we have done all this and our daughter is still in high danger of relapse.

“It’s such a large number to raise at first but as her parents we would do anything and there should be no barrier to get your child the best treatment.”

They have already collected more than £45,000 but are pushing to reach their target before February.

Anna added: “Isla was home for Christmas but she was very unwell, underweight and had not long finished her chemotherapy. She had no hair and she had tubes in her nose. She looked like a child with cancer, unable to sit properly due to open wounds from a bone marrow aspiration on her lower back.

“Our hope this year is that she’ll be running around opening presents like other children her age.”

She added: “We are determined to give Isla the best chance, even if it gives her one extra day, then it would have been worth it.”

Fundraising events planned include golf days, charity football matches, Tough Mudder runs, and raffles.

The whole family is getting involved, with Anna’s cousin Dan running a marathon distance around GOSH - 52 circuits - and Rick’s brother in law walking 155km from Kent to GOSH in London.

Rick and Anna described Isla as “lively, happy, playful and bubbly”, and “like most girls her age, loves being creative and adores anything pink, sparkly and cuddly”.

Isla has the support of charity Solving Kids’ Cancer, which helps families affected by neuroblastoma to access better treatment.

To donate click here.