A six-year-old girl who had Christmas ruined by cancer is starring in CLIC Sargent’s Christmas campaign and Sunday Mirror’s Appeal to show the harsh reality of Christmas for families stuck in hospital over the festive period – and to help other children and young people living with cancer.
Matilda Fisher, from Staverton in Wiltshire, was just three years old when she was diagnosed with leukaemia in December 2016. What followed has been two years of gruelling treatment – and Christmases that have been spoiled by cancer – including a Christmas Day spent in agonising pain, and having an emergency operation on Christmas Eve.
This year, Matilda is starring in a Christmas appeal and video by CLIC Sargent, to stop cancer cancelling more Christmases for others. Sunday Mirror has backed the campaign and launched an Appeal to raise vital funds for the charity this Christmas.
Matilda spent her first Christmas after being diagnosed in hospital.
Matilda’s mum Gabby said: “It was surreal watching everyone around you buying last minute Christmas gifts and being politely asked ‘if we were all ready for Christmas’, whilst our reality was far from the excited buzz we were surrounded by.”
The family were supported by CLIC Sargent and stayed in one of the charity’s Homes from Home near to the hospital in Bristol that Christmas, meaning they could be close by to Matilda and not have to travel back and forth from their family home – which was a three hour round trip away in Christmas traffic.
“Christmas Day was the worst day of treatment for Matilda, side effects of her treatment left her completely unable to enjoy the day and she was in agony.
“It was Marley, Matilda’s brother’s first Christmas; people were asking about what we had planned, and we couldn’t really tell them anything. Marley had his first Christmas at CLIC House and confined to Matilda’s hospital room. It was just a case of getting through the day and trying to treat it as ‘just another day’, which was really difficult.
“We found ourselves on social media less and less; it became increasingly hard to watch other families enjoying the festivities. We didn’t tell most people about Matilda’s diagnosis until after Christmas, as to not ruin it for others.”
As Matilda continued treatment, the family decided they wanted to give something back the following Christmas in 2017, and with donations and help from their local community made gift bags for families staying in hospital over the festive period.
Gabby said: “What people don’t think about is that everything is closed Christmas Day. You have no access to basic food as the shops are all closed.
“We had experienced not having things we needed – like games for us to play and just snacks. With another family we organised local donations and sent 200 sacks to local hospitals which included things like mince pies, DVDs for families to watch together and games.”
The following year, the Fishers hoped to return to a normal family Christmas, but instead, results received on Christmas Eve revealed Matilda had an infection and needed surgery.
“It was down to the wire before Christmas to find out what it was. We were suspecting a port infection – and it was. On the morning of Christmas Eve we got told Matilda needed to be nil by mouth. An ambulance took Matilda to Bristol to have an operation that day.
“She had the operation and thankfully we made it home by 7pm on Christmas Eve. It was so rushed and surreal, but I will take it, because it meant we got home for Christmas.
“I hope this year will be different though and we can begin to enjoy our own family traditions. Marley and Matilda are only going to have that magic for so long and it has already been taken away from them the last few years.”
Matilda, who has now finished treatment and is back at school, is starring in the charity appeal alongside four other children who have faced cancer. CLIC Sargent provides emotional, financial and practical help to families, and social workers to support families, like the Fishers, at a time when they need it most.
Gabby said: “CLIC House was our saviour. It was such a stressful time and the Home from Home changed everything. There are literally no words for how CLIC House helped our family. It was a lifeline.
“They make it so special, with food donations and gifts, it definitely felt Christmassy there. Without CLIC Sargent’s support, we would have ended up in serious debt paying to go back and forth to hospital. More than anything it was our sanity CLIC Sargent saved, which you’ve lost during that time.”
Rachel Kirby-Rider, Director of Income and Engagement at CLIC Sargent, said: “Christmas is a magical time for families to enjoy all the lovely things about being together during the festive season. But when you’re going through cancer treatment at Christmas, that’s at risk.
“CLIC Sargent’s campaign is highlighting how cancer costs children Christmas and is asking the public to donate to CLIC Sargent so that with their support, we can help by keeping families together this Christmas, and always.”
To donate this Christmas and help support CLIC Sargent, click here or text GIVE to 70030 to donate £5.*
To read more about Sunday Mirror’s Appeal, click here.