Date of release: 9 October 2020
A child whose life was threatened by a form of cancer has ‘rung the bell’ to celebrate the end of her treatment.
Erin Bettelley-Winwood, aged four, had spent over half her life – 787 days – undergoing treatment to beat B-cell standard risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (B-cell ALL) after being diagnosed on 31st July, 2018.
She finally received the all clear on 25th September and rung the bell on 6th October, watched by her mum Abigail, 41, dad Pete, 34, and brother Ewan, aged six, and staff, streamed to extended family and friends via Microsoft Teams.
Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia affects white blood cells, progressing quickly and aggressively so requires immediate treatment. Around 790 people are diagnosed each year in the UK.
Erin, from Bentley, Walsall, was diagnosed at 26 months old after suffering symptoms such as bruising in odd places, sweats at nights, a raised temperature, drops of blood in her nose, a red, prickly rash and pain in her hips when she walked.
Abigail, a teaching assistant, and partner Pete – now Erin’s carer after being made redundant as an outdoors pursuit instructor during lockdown – took her to hospital three times in five days after she started limping when Ewan accidentally knocked her over.
Following an emergency GP appointment with a locum, Erin was sent immediately to Walsall Manor Hospital.
From there she was transferred to the oncology and haematology department at Birmingham Children’s Hospital before shared care was established with The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust’s children’s oncology team at New Cross Hospital.
There the family met Dr Julie Brent and Dr Marita Macken, both Consultant Paediatricians, along with Steph Friedl, Paediatric Oncology Nurse Specialist, and the rest of the Paediatric Oncology team.
Over two years of treatment has followed, including seven different types of chemotherapy, 220 days of losing all mobility, 204 days of oral antibiotics, 182 days of mouth ulcers, 168 days of hair failing out, 85 days as inpatient, 47 central line dressing changes, 10 blood transfusions, 149 days of steroids, 64 intravenous needles and 15 physiotherapy visits.
For each different episode of treatment she has had, Erin has been awarded a different coloured ‘bead of courage’, which the family are now going to have set in resin to have as a keepsake.
Abigail said: “The paediatric oncology team will never know how grateful we are for their amazing treatment, support, understanding and love through our journey. Her life was under threat but the treatment has saved her.”
Now Erin’s parents have donated a picture to the ward where she was treated. The cartoon-style image, of a child ringing a bell held up high by lots of figures, was created by Angus Olsen, an illustrator for children with cancer.
“The team are part of Erin’s remission bell ‘army’, like in the picture, which is why we wanted to present them with it to accompany the ‘end of treatment bell’ in the Children’s Outpatients Department at New Cross Hospital,” added Abigail.
“We hope the picture will provide comfort to other families at the start of their journey to know there is an army behind their warrior.”
Steph Friedl said: “It has been a pleasure to support Erin and her family during her treatment. We would like to thank Erin and her family for the lovely donation of this amazing picture which is now situated next to our end of treatment bell.”
Erin has to return to New Cross every four weeks until March to be checked over as her immune system recovers, but she is otherwise leading a normal life and is in reception year at King Charles Primary School in Bentley and Charlie’s after-school club.
The family would like people do the following to help others:-
Notes to Editor
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