A SCHOOLGIRL from South Tyneside is urging people across the region to clear out their wardrobes to help save more lives like hers during September – Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Lily Slater, 15, from Bolden Colliery, was successfully treated for a brain tumour in 2007 when she was just three years old, and is now supporting TK Maxx’s Give Up Clothes For Good campaign, in support of Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People.
Lily’s parents were given the devastating news that she had cancer just days before her mum gave birth to her youngest sister Poppy.
Shirley Slater, 50, said: “Lily hadn’t been well for a couple of weeks and kept losing her balance so I took her to the GP. My husband Glyn then took her again, as I didn’t want to look like an overprotective mother, and this time she was referred for scans which revealed she had medulloblastoma.”
Around 55 children are diagnosed with medulloblastoma each year in the UK. It is the second most common brain tumour in children and develops at the back of the brain in the cerebellum.
Shirley added: “All in the matter of a week our lives were turned upside down. We were told Lily had cancer, she went in for an 8-hour operation to remove the tumour and just two days later I gave birth to her sister Poppy. It was all so much to take in and I don’t quite know how we coped looking back.”
The surgery removed the tumour from the base of her brain and she underwent months of treatment including six weeks of daily radiotherapy and 14 months of chemotherapy.
Lily and her family are encouraging the public to help more children and young people survive cancer by donating any pre-loved quality clothing, accessories and homeware they no longer need to their nearest TK Maxx store.
When sold in Cancer Research UK shops, each bag of items donated could raise up to £30 to help fund dedicated research into children’s and young people’s cancers.
Shirley said: “Unfortunately as a result of the treatment Lily has short term memory problems and we recently found out she also has damaged hearing due to the radiotherapy. She also has learning difficulties, eyesight issues, growth and thyroid deficiencies. She now attends Epinay Business and Enterprise School in Jarrow, where she can get the additional support she needs.
“We know first-hand how important research is in helping to save more lives but also to make treatments kinder to reduce the impact of treatment and the long-term side effects. That’s why raising money and supporting Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People is so important to us.”
Lily, twin sister to Willow, was given the all clear in August 2012 and has continued to do what she can to support others diagnosed, including her own nana when she was treated for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Shirley added: “Lily really went through it with her treatment with numerous procedures, scans, lumbar punctures, general anaesthetics, having septicaemia twice, the list goes on and on. But she remained happy and bubbly throughout and actually enjoyed her time in hospital. Sadly she made friends along the way who weren’t as fortunate and we are always so grateful that her treatment was a success.”
TK Maxx’s Give Up Clothes For Good campaign is one of the UK’s longest running clothes collection campaigns. It also provides an environmental benefit through the re-use and recycling of goods. Since 2004, the retailer has raised more than £32.5 million to help improve survival and is the biggest corporate supporter of Cancer Research UK’s work into children’s and young people’s cancers
Lisa Millett, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the North East, said: “More children and young people than ever are surviving cancer. But there’s still so much more to do.
“Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults – from the types of cancer to the impact of treatment and the long-term side effects survivors often experience. So, it needs different, dedicated research which campaigns like Give Up Clothes For Good help to fund.
“Cancer still claims the lives of around 510 under 25s in the UK every year.* We want to help more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life.
“That’s why we hope as many people as possible will show their support and donate any quality clothes or goods to their local TK Maxx store. Unwanted items really could save lives.”
Jo Murphy, Assistant Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at TK Maxx, said:
“We are incredibly grateful to our associates and customers who have helped us raise over £32.5 million for Cancer Research UK’s life-saving work in children’s and young people’s cancers. We hope our support will go some way to improve the outcomes of children and young people affected by cancer.”
People can donate at any TK Maxx store, all year round, including Sunderland, Byker, Newcastle, Team Valley and the Metro Centre.
Supporters can also help raise funds by wearing a gold ribbon badge – the awareness symbol of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – available from TK Maxx and Cancer Research UK stores throughout September.