For the first time ever MPs were yesterday called on to debate childhood cancer and the issues surrounding diagnoses times, treatment and support for families, which campaigners said must improve to ‘save lives.’
Inspired by the devastating story of 10-year-old Sophie Fairall, from Stubbington, who died last year following her diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma, more than 20 politicians from all different parties were united as they shared similarly ‘heartbreaking’ stories from their constituents.
Tory MP Holly Mumby-Croft, who represents Scunthorpe, spoke about young Ebony who was also diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma.
‘In 2016 just before her 10th birthday the family noticed she had a swelling on her arm,’ she said.
It took a specialist in hospital to diagnose her after first going to the GP.
She said: ‘I can’t imagine how they felt.
‘Her mum said she remained a very special and caring girl through treatment even when her hair fell out.’
Despite going into remission, in 2019 the cancer came back and Ebony died in June 2020.
Northern Irish MP Ian Paisley, of the Democratic Unionist Party for North Antrim, told the story of Jake Oliver who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of four.
He said: ‘His mum said: “I don’t want any parent to go through what we are going through.
‘“Jake was so unwell. There were eight awful weeks before we knew he had cancer.”’
He added: ‘Every single effort has got to be made to help these young people.
‘Let’s give Jake a chance and let’s give other children a chance.’
And Labour MP Mark Tami of Alyn and Deeside recalled his son’s leukaemia diagnosis.
‘I will never forget that phone call from my wife 15 years ago telling me that our nine-year-old son had leukaemia,’ he said.
‘For us, it soon became clear that the only route open to us would be a stem cell transplant and we were very fortunate that we found a donor for our son, but far too many children still are not as lucky, particularly those from non-white backgrounds.’
In response, shadow minister for public health, Andrew Gwynne, said the debate showed ‘parliament at its best.’
‘We are all speaking with one voice,’ he said.
‘We have all heard utterly heartbreaking stories.’
After the debate the minister for patient safety and primary care - Maria Caulfield - did not directly approve proposals for a new working group but agreed to meet with the campaigners, led by Sophie Fairall’s mum Charlotte and Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage, to discuss the issues further.