Hello everyone, my name is Ellen, I’m 58-year-old grandma or Mama Ell to Isla & Max. I live in Wakefield and have two lovely daughters Rachel & Elizabeth and an amazing son in law Matthew. Sadly my husband died April 2018 he was a devoted and very special grandad to Isla & Max… when Isla is on the ward she always has her pink checked teddy with her, made from Gaga’s shirt.

Isla was diagnosed with a Wilms tumour on 26th of October 2019 and relapsed in June 2020 but I’m pleased to report she’s doing really well & treatment is working.

I’ll never forget the fear I felt that Saturday morning when Rachel phoned me to say Isla had a swelling in her tummy and within a couple of hours of that first phone call was on her way to the Leeds Children’s Hospital and things quickly escalated. I remember feeling sick, sweaty, my head was spinning. This couldn’t be happening to my family, to our princess, frightened of what the future held. Worried about finances, Rachel, Matt and the children had just moved to a much bigger house and were busy transforming it into a lovely home, worried for Max he loved his big sister so much and was only a baby. My imagination and thoughts ran riot that first weekend and little sleep was had.

Candlelighters became involved on the Monday and I vividly remember Rachel’s voice had changed when she phoned me telling me the support that was available. She had been for a walk to The Square just to get off the ward for ten minutes, she told me how friendly everyone was and how at ease they had all made her feel. She had been told of financial grants that would be available, which would help with travelling costs and well-deserved family treats, holidays that were available, they’ve had a lovely weekend at Center Parcs the weekend of storm Dennis but Dennis didn’t spoil the fun. Isla was played with on the ward whilst Rachel and Matt spoke to the Drs, Elaine, the Candlelighters Dinner Lady provided home from home comforts. Ice lollies, fruit shoots, sweets, crisps and so much more. As a grandparent, this has helped me tremendously just knowing Isla has always been happy to go to the hospital and knowing the support has always been there for Rachel and Matthew… nothing can prepare you for watching your baby go through hell watching her baby… but you have all helped so much.

Isla has recently spent over three weeks on the ward and you have all supported the family tremendously. Sitting with Isla whilst Matthew has a break, offering to do washing. Providing fun craft sessions.

I’ve found COVID 19 restrictions so hard, not been able to see Isla other than over Facetime for over three weeks, there’s nothing better than a grandparent-grandchild cuddle. Isla and max have been my shining lights since losing my husband and prior to Covid would visit Isla most days if she was on the ward. I really feel for the parents also not been able to visit the ward & children only been able to have one parent with them but understand why the restrictions are in place.

Over lockdown, I’ve attended two grandparent virtual tea parties which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed especially the relaxation sessions and look forward to being able to return to The Square and spending time with others that “just know” and understand. Isla loves all the virtual craft sessions and events she’s participated in and Rachel has also done a zoom mums group which I’m pleased about.

For anyone thinking of supporting Candlelighters by fundraising I would say do it, charities need our help more than ever before, Candlelighters helps keep those smiles shining on our amazing children’s faces and lifts the practical and emotional strains from the parent’s shoulders. Every little helps. For the children on the wards in the run-up to Christmas and at Christmas it’s safe to say Candlelighters will be doing all they can to keep the place happy and fun.

I’m looking forward to a very different Christmas this year but intend to make the most of it. There will be no big Christmas meals with extended family but I’m sure there will be lots of smiles and enjoyment to be had as a family we were looking forward to attending the Christmas party hosted by Candlelighters this year as Islas surgery and treatment stopped that last year, but I’m sure something will be done via Zoom.

I really hope families will be able to spend some quality time together this Christmas and I send my love and thanks to everyone involved with Candlelighters and thank you for going the extra mile and making those children and their families smile.

Please help us to continue supporting families like Ellen’s by taking part in our Christmas fundraising campaigns

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