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Big-hearted shoppers rally to support Lucy who has a brain tumour

Date published: 09 June 2014


Big-hearted customers at a Rochdale shopping centre have been playing their part in helping a young girl get the life-saving treatment she needs for a brain tumour.

Lucy Briggs, 12, is due to jet off soon to the United States to undergo three months of pioneering proton therapy sessions to control the growth which has been affecting her more and more for almost two years.

And her parents, who have six other children, recently spent three days in the Rochdale Exchange Shopping Centre raising money to cover the cost of the trip across the Atlantic.

Lucy’s dad, 44-year-old Ian Shaw said: “Rochdale Exchange has been just brilliant and agreed to let us have a small area in the middle of the centre for three whole days recently.

“We took in a load of toys which our kids no longer wanted and used them to run a tombola on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“We were there each day from 8am until 5.30pm and managed to raise just over £1,000 thanks to the amazing generosity of shoppers in the centre.

“We’re trying to raise as much money as we can for the trip to the States where Lucy will get the treatment she so desperately needs.”

Ian, who lives with his partner Adele, 32, and Lucy’s brothers and sisters, Martin, 17, Alex, 16, Charlotte, 14, Gracie, seven, Jake, three, and two-year-old Arthur in the Falinge area of Rochdale, described how it was first discovered that Lucy was suffering from the tumour.

He said: “It was November 2012 when our lives changed. Lucy often helped out in the fish and chip shop which I used to have in Rochdale town centre and one Saturday she told us she’d suddenly gone blind.

“I took her straight to the nearby Specsavers opticians where they did an examination and said they could see something was wrong. They arranged for us to go the local eye hospital in Rochdale right away where Lucy was seen by a specialist who arranged for her to have a CT scan at the hospital in Oldham and then another one at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

“She was diagnosed with a large benign tumour which they told us was growing near her brain stem.

“This meant that her brain was gradually filling up with fluid which was squeezing on it.
“Lucy’s since had seven brain operations to remove the tumour but they’ve not been able to get it all out. She’s also had two ‘shunts’ put in to help drain the fluid away from her brain.

“Things seemed to be under control but then we had another big blow last February when the doctors told us that a second tumour had started to grow on top of the first one.”

But Ian described how, despite this new crisis, fresh hope for Lucy came when the family learned of a pioneering new form of treatment available in the United States.

He said: “It’s known as proton therapy and is a type of radiotherapy which targets the tumour with a beam of protons, killing off the cells in it so they can’t reproduce.

“It’s more accurate than conventional radiotherapy and has fewer side-effects.

“At the moment the treatment isn’t available in the UK, although I believe it’s planned to have a centre doing it in Manchester by 2019.

“Until then patients have to go to either of only two places in the US where it’s available - Florida or Oklahoma.

“Arrangements have been made for Lucy to go to the ProCure Centre in Oklahoma City within the next few weeks.

“The NHS is paying for the treatment, which takes three months and costs about £100,000, and is also footing the bill for Adele and I to travel over with Lucy. However, as we’ll be there for so long we also need to take our three youngest children with us and that will cost £10,000. That is why we need to do some urgent fundraising.

“We’re being helped by an excellent charity called Kids ‘n’ Cancer which is contributing some of the amount but we also need to raise money ourselves, which is where Rochdale Exchange Shopping Centre has helped us so much.

“I turned to the centre because quite a few of our friends and family work there and I’m also quite well known by people through having the fish and chip shop until last October when I gave it up to become a full-time carer.

“The three days of fundraising we did there recently went very well. The shoppers were so generous and some of them even brought in bags of their own toys and bric-a-brac for us to offer as tombola prizes.”

Lorenzo O’Reilly, Rochdale Exchange Centre Manager, said: “Lucy’s story has really touched the local community and we have been delighted to help out here at the shopping centre.

“The people of Rochdale are very warm-hearted and generous and it’s typical of them to rally round to help such a brave little girl and her family.”

Ian added: “Lucy herself has been very brave about all this and just gets on with her life.

“She goes to her school at Wardle Academy three days a week but gets tired quite easily and sometimes has to use a wheelchair.

“We’re told the proton therapy has a good chance of success, so we’re just keeping our fingers crossed it will help give Lucy back her life.”

Michael Hyman, founder of Kids ‘n’ Cancer, which is based in Chesterfield Derbyshire, said: “My wife and I started the charity in 2010 and have so far helped 70 families with children like Lucy. Thankfully, to date they have all survived.

“The proton therapy treatment has a good record of success and we’re hoping it can help Lucy.

“We are contributing up to £5,000 towards the cost of making it a little easier for the family to stay with her in Oklahoma for the three months when she’ll have between 30 and 36 treatment sessions, which are done five days a week.

“Despite the financial help they are getting from us, it’s good to see that the family is also raising money on their own initiative. If they see them raising a few bob people for themselves people will rally to support them.”

To donate to Lucy go to www.justgiving.com/lucybriggs1

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