Proud parents hail ‘inspirational’ daughter as remission milestone nears

Holly-May pictured during her treatment
Holly-May pictured during her treatment

A Houghton Regis couple have hailed their ‘inspirational’ daughter as she celebrates three years of being in remission from a deadly cancer.

Hadrian Academy pupil Holly-May Chapman, aged five, was given just three months to live when she was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer, in 2011.

After being taken to Luton and Dunstable Hospital, Holly-May was quickly transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, where she was kept for eight months as she endured chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.

After a cycle of chemotherapy the tumour began to shrink.

Holly-May has since made a remarkable recovery.

Next month parents Katrina and John will mark three years to the day since their daughter was declared in remission.

Katrina said: “Our beautiful, brave, daughter is an inspiration.

“Throughout her treatment she always managed a little smile and just got on with it.

“She has been absolutely amazing.

“We would never have got through any of this without incredible grandparents, family and friends who did so much for us, including fundraising so we can take Holly-May to Florida in the near future.”

Holly-May’s condition was discovered in spring 2011 when over a three-week period she was taken to the family GP several times, complaining of a pain in her right side.

She was prescribed antibiotics for what was diagnosed as infections.

After their third visit to the surgery Katrina discovered an unusual change in her daughter’s chest and John, a police officer, noticed the toddler was suffering from a collapsed lung.

The couple immediately rushed Holly-May to the hospital.

Katrina said: “At first nobody mentioned cancer but when we were told the following day she would have to be treated by an oncology team.

“I didn’t realise the significance of that, but my dad knew.

“There were tears running down his face which gave away how bad the situation was.

“When the word cancer was mentioned, our whole world was turned upside down.

“I will never forget that moment”.

Holly-May’s breathing deteriorated rapidly and doctors decided she needed to go into paediatric intensive care the same day.

They arranged surgery to do a biopsy to determine what type of tumour it was.

Katrina added: “Because she only had one lung, doctors were concerned about operating and gave her a 50/50 chance of surviving the surgery”.

After Holly-May came through the surgery the biopsy confirmed she was suffering from rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue sarcoma in her chest wall.

The rare type of cancer doesn’t typically respond well to chemotherapy treatments and Holly-May’s parents were told their daughter had just three months to live.

Katrina said: “It was an extremely aggressive tumour and doctors believe that within weeks the tumour had completely filled half of her upper body.

“God forbid what may have happened if her dad hadn’t recognised she had a collapsed lung.”

Following her against the odds recovery the five-year-old was given a Little Star Award by Cancer Research UK, in recognition of her bravery.

Nominations for this year’s Little Star awards have now been opened, under-18s who have cancer or who have been treated for the disease in the last five years are eligible.

To nominate a Little Star log on to