Sophie Fairall aged nine, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in September last year – a rare type of cancer that forms in children’s soft tissue like skeletal muscle.
Now, she has been told that her condition is terminal, and has anywhere between one and six months left to live.
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But Sophie, from Stubbington, won’t let her illness slow her down, and is determined to live life to the full during the time she has left.
She is pushing through a bucket list that includes feeding penguins, cooking with Gordon Ramsay and meeting singer Olivia Rodrigo.
Sophie’s mum, Charlotte, is amazed by her daughter’s resilience and maturity – showing a wisdom beyond her young years.
She said: ‘We’ve had a lot of conversations with her. She knows what is going on and what it means, but wants to focus on taking each day as it comes.
‘Sophie is honestly just incredible. She is still going to school regularly and is so full of energy, every single day.
‘You look at her and it’s hard to believe she’s dying.’
Initially, doctors believed that Sophie’s stomach pains were down to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or food intolerance.
But after doctors found a lump that had to be removed, they discovered parts of a tumour that could not be removed.
Most of Sophie’s bucket list has already been completed or is lined up – and she is particularly looking forward to cooking with Gordon Ramsay.
The nine-year-old is excited to show the celebrity chef her scrambled egg recipe.
She also wants to spend a day ‘as an adult’, driving to work, cooking dinner when she gets home and cleaning the house.
Tesco, Morrisons and Cineworld have all offered her shifts, according to mum Charlotte.
The only outstanding items on Sophie’s bucket list are visiting Australia and meeting Olivia Rodrigo.
But the youngster also wants to bring about real change in the healthcare system she has become very familiar with.
Charlotte said: ‘From being in hospital so many times – both in Portsmouth and Southampton – there are a few things she has noticed and would like to help change.
‘Sophie wants hospital food to be improved, and for parents to be fed when they’re in with their children.
‘At Southampton General Hospital, they have a play specialist but it’s only Monday to Friday, so she’d love to see that become a seven-day position.’
The family is also fundraising for Alice’s Ark – the only charity that specifically researches rhabdomyosarcoma.
At the time of printing, the family has raised more than £46,800, split between completing Sophie’s bucket list and donating to the charity.
‘We honestly cannot thank people enough for their support,’ said Charlotte.
‘From the mainstream charities only five per cent of the money goes towards research into children’s cancers, so we wanted to donate to one that directly helps people like Sophie.’
Natalie Mansbridge, who lives near Stonehenge, is sister to Charlotte, aunt to Sophie, and a mum of one.
She said: ‘We posted the bucket list on the Sophie’s Journey Facebook page, and we’ve practically fulfilled it.
‘We’ve had a fantastic community response with everyone helping, lots of people have donated.
‘Andy Vaughn, a close friend of the family, is trying to work through them all, and he’s getting a timetable for all the events.
‘Thank you to the entire Stubbington area, they have been amazing.
‘We can send her off in style.’
Natalie says that the family is very close and the news of Sophie’s terminal diagnosis has been devastating.
She said: ‘It was a massive shock. You don’t ever expect to hear children are going to die, especially one that’s so lively and active and funny.
‘She’s the life and soul or any party and event, she’s always smiling.’
Now the family are hoping to raise funds to help other children with cancer.
Natalie said: ‘What would really be appreciated – there’s such a lack of research into children’s cancers and Sophie’s cancer, and what would really be appreciated is support for the fundraising.
‘We’re trying to raise money for Alice’s Ark which is a charity that researches into the specific cancer that Sophie has. We want to get a legacy for Sophie.’