A WOMAN wants to run 100 miles in November to help a little girl get the cancer treatment she desperately needs.
Victoria Wickins, who lives in Scarletts Lane, near Wargrave, is fundraising for seven-year-old Hollie Beattie.
She was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer that mostly affects babies and young children, two years ago.
Hollie lives in New Zealand with her mother Johanna – who was at Queen Anne’s School in Caversham with Mrs Wickins – her father John and older brother William.
In the last two years, she has had chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, surgeries and two stem cell transplants.
In July, following an operation to remove some residual disease in her tibia, Hollie was thought to be cancer free.
However, at a follow-up appointment two months later, the family were told the cancer had returned in her brain.
Her treatment options in New Zealand have now been exhausted and the goal is to raise $400,000 NZD, which will allow the family to travel to Barcelona for a clinical trial.
This trial is specific for relapsed neuroblastoma patients and directly targets tumour cells in the brain and spinal fluid by using radiation immunotherapy.
The family say this is their last remaining option and it is hoped they can travel to Spain early next year.
Mrs Wickins is halfway to her 100-mile target and hopes to play a key role in the Beattie’s fundraising efforts.
She said: “Hollie is a real little fighter. No child of that age should have to go through what she has endured and she is such a brave and courageous little girl.
“They thought she was cancer free and then they’ve been told it has come back. If they don’t figure out how to stop it completely, it will just keep coming back.
“Doctors in New Zealand can only go so far with the treatment because they don’t offer those trials. If they went to America for the same trials, they would cost four times as much.
“Whether you are a parent, an uncle or have friends with children, it is not hard to imagine how hard it is for a little girl to go through all of these challenges and yet she still has a smile on her face and so much joy.”
Earlier tests showed the treatment had failed to make an impact on the disease in Hollie’s bone marrow. As a result, she was unable to begin the first stem cell transplant, which had been scheduled for January 2019.
After waiting for approval from America for an immunotherapy drug, she started a new set of combined chemo and immunotherapy cycles last December and made it home just in time for Christmas after the first round.
Following these rounds of treatment, Hollie completed two stem cell transplants, which included two sets of four week stays in hospital, where she had to be in isolation.
She then had several weeks of radiation treatment and immunotherapy treatment, which took her through to the start of this year.
Hollie’s mother is being supported by a group of her old school friends from her days at Queen Anne’s School in Caversham.
The class of 1997 reconnected two years ago at a school reunion and stayed in touch via a WhatsApp group. When they heard about Hollie’s condition, they decided to come up with their own ways of raising money, while the school society donated £500.
Catherine Mun-Gavin, who also lives in Wargrave, runs her own business called Save Thyme Cooking. She has agreed to offer a three-course meal for four people through an online auction. For more information, visit bit.ly/2UrAgz2
Letty Probett, who now lives in Waltham St Lawrence, has set up a silent auction, which will go live on November 27. To make a bid, visit givergy.uk/bidforhollie
Mrs Beattie said: “They are a very special group of ladies. The love and support we have felt from across the globe from the beginning of our journey has been amazing.
“Having to consider this treatment and travel, within the current global pandemic, adds an additional layer of stress, but the need to be there is greater. We also just want to send a big thank you to everyone out there for their support.”
The “Hundreds for Hollie” campaign has so far raised $14,600 NZD and all funds link directly to the “Hope for Hollie” page, which is the family’s main page.
The Beattie family originally lived in Sonning and Mrs Beattie met her husband in Cardiff in 2002, where she studied at university. They decided to move to New Zealand six years later to get married and start a family and they now live in Auckland.
Mrs Wickins, 41, who works in admin, lives with her husband Vaughan, 45, who works for Zacharias Trust, an international Christian charity.
The couple have raised thousands of pounds for Syrian refugees. In 2017, they took part in a 63km “ultra-walk” in Lebanon and Mrs Wickins has been taking donations from her online fitness classes, called FiitWarriors, which she holds three times a week.
They have two daughters, Isabel, nine, and Chloe, seven, who attend Robert Piggott Junior School, while their five-year-old son Noah is at the infant school.
Their mother runs around the Wargrave area five times a week wearing a unicorn headband, as she says Hollie is “crazy about them”.
Although she only started running a couple of years ago, she now has more confidence.
She added: “If you had asked me three or four years ago if I would like to go for a run I would have laughed. I’m still not much of a runner, but I enjoy it a lot more.
“I’m not very fast, but I am getting better. I find running a lot easier when it is attached to a cause. If I am ever struggling, I think about what Hollie or the refugees have been going through and I realise this is nothing compared to them.
“I take two days off a week just to look after my body and I’m trying not to burn out or get injured. I’ve been running around like an absolute nutter with the unicorn headband and people must think ‘what is that crazy woman doing?’ but it is all for a good cause.”
If you would like to donate, visit givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/hundreds-for-hollie
Victoria Wickins 1 and 2 – Running around Wargrave wearing the unicorn headband
Hope for Hollie 1 and 2 – Hollie in hospital in New Zealand wearing her own unicorn headband
Hollie and family – Father John, Hollie, brother William and mother Johanna