THE mum of a cancer-stricken toddler nicknamed Little Lion for her bravery is thanking Sun readers for helping to fulfil her daughter’s Disneyland dream.
After the family of two-year-old Isabella Coomber told of her battle with a rare brain tumour, generous readers pledged enough cash to help take her to the Paris theme park.
Mum Jolene Hale said: “I can’t thank readers enough. It wouldn’t have been possible without the kindness of all those who donated.”
But days after they returned to the UK a scan revealed Isabella’s tumour had not shrunk, despite a year of chemotherapy.
Now the family are desperately fundraising again — this time for life-saving treatment in America.
She told how she had been worried about Isabella’s development but was assured by doctors that all was fine.
She said: “As a baby she wouldn’t push down on her legs and couldn’t sit unaided.
“I kept going to see the doctor but was told all kids are different and not to worry.”
But Jolene and partner Chris, 31, couldn’t shake off the feeling that something was wrong and when Isabella was 14 months old she was referred for a scan at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital.
At the time Jolene was six months pregnant with third daughter, Sophia.
The scan, on December 16, 2011, revealed a seven-centimetre tumour in Isabella’s brain. She needed urgent surgery but, because of the tumour’s frontal position, her family were warned she might not survive.
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“Nothing can prepare you for that,” says Jolene. “I would have given anything to switch places with her.” But while medics prepared them for the worst, Jolene and dad Chris vowed to stay positive.
Jolene explained: “I told myself if anyone could pull through, Isabella could because of her fiery little personality. She was a typical, stubborn redhead, born with a shock of red hair, and I prayed that that stubbornness would come out on the operating table.”
It did, and Isabella survived the surgery, days before Christmas 2011. But the dangerous position of the tumour meant surgeons could only remove about 80 per cent of it.
And a biopsy revealed that what was left was cancerous.
She started chemotherapy to shrink the remaining part of the tumour and her red hair fell out — but her fighting spirit remained.
In April last year she became a big sister to baby Sophia, now ten months.
Jolene said: “I was going between the maternity ward and the cancer ward but becoming a big sister gave Isabella such a boost.
“She became known as the Little Lion on the ward, as she just wouldn’t give up.”
Now doctors say her best chance is a treatment called proton therapy in America. But the NHS will not fund the £120,000 treatment.
Jolene, of Plumstead, south London, said: “Isabella does not meet the criteria for funding so we are doing all we can to raise the money ourselves. But we are still a long way off the target.
“With every day that passes there is a risk the tumour will start growing again and she won’t be well enough to travel so we are begging people to help us reach the target before it is too late.”