The mum of a two-year-old girl undergoing cancer treatment at Nottingham City Hospital is raising money to take her on holiday for the first time.
Florence Potter- who is three years old in a fortnight – was found to have a tumour in her stomach last summer.
“I noticed that Florence had a hard, tummy – bigger than normal – and wasn’t eating much,” said mum Sophie, 25. “An MRI in August last year revealed that she had a cancerous lump which originated from her bladder and was attached to her bowel. “
Florence had a biopsy and was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma. She immediately started a course of intense chemotherapy and had surgery in November. Sophie was devastated when Florence started losing her hair, as she had never even had her hair trimmed.
And in stepped Molly Olly’s. The charity donates Olly the Brave cuddly lions to young cancer patients. Olly has his own Hickman line and a removable mane so it can “lose” its hair like his young owners.
Sophie travels over each day from Hinckley to Nottingham City Hospital for radiotherapy, and Olly accompanies Florence. Doctors “treat” Olly first, allowing Florence to help and to make decisions on his care and so making it less scary for her.
“Florence has to be medicated before having her treatment as she finds it very distressing, so having Olly to cuddle is a great help,” said Sophie. “Florence loves snuggling up to him.
“Olly’s mane comes off so he looks like Florence and he has ‘wiggles’ (Hickman line) like her. The concept is a really good idea, a simple way to explain treatment to young children in a non-medical and comforting way.”
Molly Olly’s was set up by Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw 10 years ago after their daughter Molly died of a rare kidney cancer, aged just 8. So far, more than 13,000 Olly toys and books have been given to children across the UK.
Molly Olly’s has raised £3m and has granted more than 2,500 “wishes” since its launch, 30 of those at Nottingham.
“Once Florence has completed her treatment and feels stronger, we will definitely be taking up the offer of a wish from Molly Olly. It’s a wonderful charity – it helps put smiles on the faces of youngsters who are going through frightening health challenges.”
Sophie has also set up a GoFundMe page to try to give Florence some of the experiences she has missed out on due to the pandemic and her diagnosis.
“I’d love to give Florence everything and more that she has and is still missing out on,” said Sophie. “Florence was having lessons in swimming and music, and was about to start dance lessons. With her Hickman Line, she’s not allowed to go swimming or have baths – and she loves splashing and soaking everyone.
“So I originally set up the GoFundMe to buy her a Hammond drysuit so we can go in the water together again.
“She loved going to all her groups and seeing her friends and family; she’d started going to a playgroup and loved it – I’m really sad that she won’t be able to go for a while.
“Her teachers, her friends, the arts and crafts she’d have been doing – I imagine it is the best feeling in the world when your little one runs out of playgroup with a picture for you.”
“Florence is a delightful, brave little girl,” said paediatric radiographer Karen Waite. “She is having radiotherapy treatment under general anaesthetic, as we need her to keep very still for her treatment. She manages her treatment well – this morning she walked into the treatment room and went off to sleep pretending to be a cat.”
Rachel, of Molly Olly’s, said: “Molly was the reason I started the charity. When she died, I just knew I needed to help other children like her. Knowing we have made the dark days brighter for hundreds of children being treated in Nottingham is what drives me and the charity forward.
“We designed Olly The Brave to help to normalise the effects of chemotherapy such as losing hair and the central line. I know that Florence has really taken to Olly and she often plays with him, pretending to give him treatment just like she has been having. Olly has brought so much comfort and joy to Florence – and that’s why we do what we do.”
Sophie’s GoFundMe page currently stands at over £12,600. If you’d like to donate, you can find it here: GoFundMe.com/florences-rhabdomyosarcoma.
“We’ve never been on holiday together,” said Sophie. “I’d love to take Florence, so she can have experiences and we can create memories.”
Find out more about Molly Olly’s, its 10th anniversary, and how it’s helped hundreds of children in Nottingham here: www.mollyolly.co.uk