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A letter to our daughter on the eve of her fifth birthday that she may read when she is cancer free and living the life we have always hoped for her.

Dear Lily–Mae,

Tomorrow, you, our beautiful daughter and our Tiny Dancer, will turn five. We will be having a small celebration here in London, the big party will be when we return home. Your little brother, Evan, will turn three in a week and a half, so we’re having a ‘Princess and Knight‘ themed party the weekend after next. We hope you are as excited as we are.

You were diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma six weeks after your fourth birthday and, just like every day since then, tomorrow will be a mix of happiness and sadness; happy that you have made it this far, and sadness that you have had to suffer so much at such a young age. Tomorrow is also a reminder of our fear, the most difficult emotion to bear, and it’s the fear of how many more birthdays we will get to celebrate with you and, ultimately, the fear that this disease will take you, our beautiful girl, from us.

But you have shown us how to overcome fear, you have taught us the meaning of the word courage, for you are the embodiment of courage. This year, you have suffered so much, too much; chemotherapy, operations, stem cell transplant, radiotherapy, scans, bone marrow aspirates, injections, cannulas, tubes, central lines, medications, vomiting, pain, diarrhoea and baldness. These are words that are all far too familiar to you now and are words that you understand and accept without question; this is courage. As your parents, hurting you so much, in the attempt to save your life, has been utterly heartbreaking, but your heart is not breaking; this is courage. There is no treatment as aggressive as that for Stage 4 Neuroblastoma, and sometimes the side effects of what we are doing to you are completely overwhelming, but you are not overwhelmed; this is courage.

To date, you have defied the odds; you have, after nine rounds of the most poisonous chemotherapy, no hearing, sight, heart, liver, kidney or lung damage, but more than that, you have shown us the true meaning of your incredible, fortitude, bravery and resilience; you have taught us how to live with adversity, to endure with dignity, and to hope without fail. We have been enormously proud of you since the day you were born; this year, we have been humbled to call you, our Lily-amazing, our little girl.

We have another six months of hard treatment ahead of us and then we wait to see if you will be one of the lucky ones who gets to live without this disease for the rest of a very long and healthy life. We will not know until your ninth birthday if you are free or not.

Happy birthday, beautiful child, may you live to celebrate many, many more birthdays. The world needs people with your amazing spirit and we need you more than anything.

Love always,
Mummy and Daddy.

Lily–Mae with her parents Leighton and Judith, and little brother Evan.