Three weeks after her eighth birthday, Rebecca Henderson from Billingham was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer found in the muscles, bones and soft tissue areas.
It was a great shock to Rebecca and her family and in that instant her life changed. Previously a very active and sporty child, Rebecca suddenly faced lengthy cancer treatment.
Now 15, she has faced cancer four times in her young life, each time hoping it has been beaten.
Mum, Tracy, says: “Rebecca was first diagnosed in 2014 and again in 2017, 2019 and 2020.
“It’s really hard on her and every time she completes her treatment, we’re all hoping to hear the ‘all clear.’ We want her to have her life back and have freedom from treatment and hospitals.
“We all feel like the treatment she gets is truly cutting-edge and we know, as bad as things are, that we’re getting the best help we can.
Rebecca receiving a PET scan
“The last three times Rebecca has needed cancer treatment, she’s taken part in brand new chemotherapy trials, often being the first person on our ward to try the drugs.
“Throughout all the problems caused by Covid, the Great North Children’s Hospital staff have been amazing, they always are. It’s true that there’s been an extra layer of stress caused by the pandemic but everyone at the hospital goes above and beyond to help reduce that. Yes, everyone has to wear masks, but we always know there are smiles behind them.”
L-R Research nurses Emily Parsons and Linda Coates giving Rebecca her trial drug, Eribulin
Rebecca says: “During different treatments for my cancer, I’ve taken part in eight research trials.
“Most trials have been easy but some have been difficult. One trial I did tested an anti-sickness drug on children. It really helped me and now children all over the world can use it, too.”
In 2016, our Foundation gave a £1million grant to fund four posts within the Innovative Therapies for Children with Cancer Unit, which has doctors, nurses and research staff based at the Great North Children’s Hospital and Newcastle University’s Wolfson Childhood Cancer Research Centre.
The team is led by Consultant Paediatric Oncologist, Dr Quentin Campbell-Hewson, and is embedded within the hospital’s clinical service, meaning research is not separate from routine care of patients and nearly all young patients are involved in clinical trial studies.