Colleagues rally round to run for Lilly

May 2014

A team of runners from UCB is on target to raise hundreds of pounds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital in support of a colleague whose young daughter has cancer.

Lilly Hickman, who is 21 months old, was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer in January. Retinoblastoma can be inherited but Lilly’s was caused by a mutation of a gene in the lining of the retina.

Her mother, Louise, teaches beauty therapy to further education students, and explained Lilly is one of only 40 to 50 children diagnosed with retinoblastoma each year in the UK. Lilly has bilateral disease, where both eyes are affected by tumours.

Her treatment includes chemotherapy and laser treatment, which is being conducted at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, one of only two centres in the country specialising in the treatment of retinoblastoma.

Louise’s colleagues decided to take part in the 2014 Great Midlands Fun Run to raise cash for the Children’s Hospital and hope to meet their target of £1,500.

The group, comprising lecturers in hair and beauty, theatrical and media makeup and sport, are in final preparations for the eight-and-a-half mile run, which takes place in Sutton Coldfield on June 1. Seventeen runners make up Lilly’s Runners and will be wearing team vests bearing the youngster’s name and the UCB logo.

Louise, who lives with Lilly and husband Jason in Worcestershire, said she hoped Lilly’s Runners would help to raise awareness about retinoblastoma and the importance of swift diagnosis.

She recalled taking Lilly to the GP when she and Jason noticed their daughter had a squint in her right eye in January. Lilly was given an emergency referral to Kidderminster Hospital and a growth, or tumour, was detected in the optic nerve area by a paediatric eye specialist. The retinoblastoma team at Birmingham Children’s Hospital then carried out further tests and found two tumours in each eye.

Louise, 34, said: “We went from a squint to a possible cataract to a growth to a tumour and full-blown cancer of the eyes in five days. At that point, our world fell apart.”

The chemotherapy treatment means Lilly’s ability to fight infection is weakened and she has caught chicken pox, tonsillitis and suffered an allergic reaction. Her condition can deteriorate rapidly and require hospital admissions.

However, Louise said Lilly had remained remarkably lively and inquisitive. “She has been a very happy bunny throughout the whole thing,” said Louise. “She has been so resilient and has amazed us.

“Everyone at work has sent so many gifts and presents and cards of support. They have been such a wonderful team.”

Louise hopes the efforts of Lilly’s Runners will raise public perception of retinoblastoma and help other parents to recognise the signs of the condition. Early detection means 98 per cent of UK children are successfully treated.

Louise added: “Cancer is silent until it rears its ugly head. Children have lost eyes because it has not been recognised early enough. If it can be caught early, you can save their vision and their life.”

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