Why I stopped cancer treatment for brain tumour tot to enjoy her last Christmas
A MUM has told how she made the heartbreaking decision to stop her young daughter’s cancer treatment for her to enjoy a pain free last Christmas.
Terminally ill three- year -old Isabella Coomber has been battling a rare brain tumour since she was one. She was due to start a final cycle of chemotherapy last month to help extend her life.
But chemotherapy treatment left the little girl from Charlton, South London so sick that her mother pleaded with doctors to end it, so Isabella would be well enough to have fun at Christmas.
Heartbreakingly it will be her last, which is why mum Jolene Hale, 32, is determined to make it the best ever for Isabella and her sisters Rebecca, seven and Sophia, 18 months.
Jolene said: ‘ There will be no tears while Isabella is here. We are lucky enough to have another Christmas with our darling girl and I want to create happy memories that we can cherish forever.
‘Cancer has ruined every Christmas she has been old enough to know about so far, but not this one. This year she will have fun like other children.
‘The treatment will not cure Isabella so what is the point of continuing if it makes her quality of life so poor she can’t enjoy herself?
‘She may not have long left so the time we have together is too precious to waste being sick. My little girl deserves some laughter and happiness at Christmas.’
Brave Jolene is now desperately fundraising to fulfil her tot’s final Christmas wish to visit Disneyland.
The little girl asked Father Christmas if instead of a present she could go and see her favourite characters again, after fundraisers sent the family to Disneyland Paris last year.
Jolene said: ‘ I nearly had a heart attack when she told me she had asked Father Christmas if she could go back to Disney. She had the absolute time of her life there last year, I have never seen her so happy.
‘I had no idea that’s what she was planning to ask for at Christmas. But there is no way I can afford to take her.
‘It will break my heart not to be able to give her what she has asked for when I know this will be her last Christmas with me so I’ve started fundraising to see if it is possible.
‘The best I can do is try like any mum in my shoes would.’
Isabella was born seemingly perfectly healthy on September 30th 2010. Jolene first feared something was wrong when she was five months old.
She explains: ‘ I noticed she didn’t push her legs down like Rebecca had done as a baby but my GP told me not to worry and assured me all babies developed differently.’
By the time Isabella was ten months old, Jolene was pregnant again, but still concerned for her baby who was unable to sit unsupported.
She was referred to the Royal Marsden in London for tests. On December 16 2011 she had a brain scan which revealed a large tumour.
Jolene says: ‘No mother expects to hear those words, I was shaking and sobbing.’
At the time it was thought not to be cancerous but still needed to be removed within days.
But due to the position near her brain stem there was a chance she may not survive the operation.
Five month pregnant Jolene hastily brought Christmas forward for her little girls to enjoy the big day before Isabella returned to hospital for surgery.
She says: ‘ Thankfully they never guessed it wasn’t really Christmas. We had Turkey and crackers and lots of presents but in the back of my mind all I could think about was the operation.’
Days later Isabella underwent surgery and spent the real Christmas Day recovering on the ward. But during the eight- hour operation surgeons were only able to remove 80 per cent of the tumour.
The rest was wrapped around a main blood vessel and too dangerous to remove.
As the tot recovered she was nicknamed the Little Lion by nurses for her courage and bravery.
But there was bad news when tests revealed the tumour was in fact an extremely rare cancer affecting only one in 900,000.
The family were warned most children didn’t survive. Jolene says: ‘ All we could do was hope and pray that Isabella would.’
She started chemotherapy immediately and three months later in March 2012 Jolene gave birth to Sophia but unfortunately separated with the girls’ father Chris.
Jolene says: ‘ Isabella loved being a big sister and I hoped the new baby would give her something else to fight for.’
But the tot was not responding as hoped so her family began fundraising for pioneering proton treatment in America.
Last Christmas she battled through more chemotherapy and the family prayed it would work.
But in September this year doctors broke the news that Isabella would not survive and had just ten months left to live.
Jolene says: ‘ I will never ever forget those words. They told me my little girl would never grow up and in that moment my heart shattered forever.
‘But I knew I could not cry, not while I still had Isabella in my arms because instead of fighting for her life, I now had to fight to ensure she had the best possible time while she was alive.’
Chemotherapy was arranged to try and prolong the tot’s life but the first round left her so sick and weak Jolene spoke to doctors about ending treatment.
She explains: ‘ I couldn’t bear to see the precious time she had left wasted being ill on hospital wards. She’d been through so much already and I felt it was time for her to start enjoying life.
‘Christmas was coming and she was so excited. I didn’t want it ruined by treatment that couldn’t save her.’
Her consultant agreed that her quality of life would be so poor the treatment should be stopped for the tot to have some fun. He also advised the family not to waste their time going to America for treatment.
Instead it was agreed that the tens of thousands that had been raised by well wishers to send her to America should instead help other cancer tots.
The cash was used to purchase a caravan which is now available for free holidays to families who need them most. It was named the Little Lions Den after Isabella.
So when Isabella revealed her Christmas wish this year, it meant Jolene had to start fundraising again and is now hoping the public will get behind her one last time to make her tot’s last ever Christmas wish come true.
To help Isabella’s Christmas dream come true visit http://www.gofundme.com/xcjw8