Brave toddler Lilly Macglashan has been at home celebrating the Christmas doctors said she would never see – after enduring agonising cancer treatment in America and becoming a TV star along the way.
Lilly and her family arrived in New York on December 3 and they were joined by a camera crew filming their incredible story for BBC1’s Inside Out.
But the little Dunstable girl took a turn for the worse in America this month following an MRI scan – and required emergency surgery. She also had to have treatment on Friday, December 21 – her third birthday.
Yet like everything else life has thrown at her, Lilly has come out smiling. When she was having problems, twin sister Molly told her parents: “Lilly is sad. Molly is sad.”
Dawn said: “They are so connected, it really is a twin thing. I know Molly is helping Lilly fight this all the way.”
Shortly after birth, Lilly was diagnosed with abdominal neuroblastoma which later spread to her brain. She was given next-to-no chance of survival.
Her father, John Macglashan, told Inside Out’s Mark Jordan that at birth, his daughter was “more tumour than baby” and added: “Doctors told us to take some pictures and make the best of her, because it will be lethal.”
At the time, defiant grandmother Sue Tarn vowed to search for a solution. She said: “I found the Memorial Sloane-Kettering in New York and I thought ‘that’s the place Lilly needs to be’.”
Unavailable anywhere else in the world, a full course of the treatment will eventually cost about £600,000.
That prompted Lilly’s selfless sister Danielle Newell to kickstart an ambitious fundraising campaign – as exclusively revealed by the Gazette last year.
Lilly’s treatment is not paid for by the NHS due to its experimental nature. However, even the government in Greece pay for sufferers of the same cancer to be treated at Memorial Sloane-Kettering.
John said: “As a country we give billions away in foreign aid but when it comes to our own children the government and NHS like to keep it quiet and leave these children to die.
“They can’t keep giving children a death sentence. They don’t think Lilly’s worth it. It hurts me.
“Neuroblastoma kills more children than any other childhood cancer, but most people have never heard of it.”
The experimental New York treatment is no walk in Central Park – nuclear medicine that teaches cancer cells to kill themselves is injected into Lilly’s brain.
Mum Dawn said: “It’s so very hard to watch, as a mother you just want to do it all for her, and shield her from the pain.”
Dr Kim Kramer of the hospital said: “We’ve made tremendous progress. Lilly’s scans have been looking fabulous.
Dr Kramer also said that ‘75 per cent’ of children they treat make a full recovery, where neuroblastoma is ‘not part of their issues’.
She added that before the pioneering treatment became available, the hospital had ‘no survivors’.
The New York trip was not all doom-and-gloom however, as Barbara Zobian of the Candlelighters charity took Lilly and Molly to iconic department store Bloomingdales to see Father Christmas before her treatment began.
Dawn said: “Lilly is my little hero, and it just breaks my heart that she is almost three and has learnt to deal with pain and cancer.
“Such an amazing little fighter – I love her so, so much.
“I am so in awe of this special, incredibly brave, precious little girl that I have been blessed with in my life – she never ceases to amaze me.”
Currently in remission, Lilly is not out of the woods yet.
Also, her family are in masses of debt and face financial ruin, but must continue with fundraising efforts to keep her alive.
John said: “If the house has to go, the house has to go. We’ve already used all our savings up.
“I don’t want to look at a little urn or a gravestone – I would never forgive myself, not while there was a chance.”
However – with Molly by her side and family around her – she has at last enjoyed a normal Christmas at home like most children.
To donate towards the cost of Lilly’s treatment, please visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/LillyMacglashan and give whatever you can afford.