A Killylea mother whose daughter is currently undergoing cancer treatment is encouraging local people to grab their mixing bowls this spring to raise money for Stand Up To Cancer, a joint campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4.
Hendrikje Eliasberg, who is 15, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in January 2018 and spent five weeks in hospital.
She now is well enough to be back at Integrated College Dungannon, where she is studying for her GCSEs, although she is still taking oral chemotherapy drugs each day.
For the next year she will need fortnightly visits to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children to receive intravenous chemo and quarterly lumbar punctures.
It was just after Hendrikje’s diagnosis last year that her mother Thirza decided that she would organise a community fundraiser as part of The Great Stand Up To Cancer Bake Off, raising over £2,500 to support life-saving research.
She explained how the family discovered that Hendrikje had leukaemia: “We had spent Christmas with our families back in the Netherlands, where Hendrikje had started to feel very unwell. We thought she had flu but after three weeks of no improvement, once we were back in Northern Ireland, the GP did some blood tests.
“The next day she was urgently admitted to hospital for further tests and that’s when she was diagnosed. We were shocked, sad and scared, and sick with uncertainty.
“Hendrikje went through various stages of chemo and other medication at home and in hospital. Her treatment will continue until well into 2020. Thankfully, she was able to start her GCSEs at school in mid-September and is keeping up really well. We now hope she will be able to continue her normal routines without many side effects.
“Hendrikje has been so brave throughout all of this. She inspires me to keep going and stay positive.”
Thirza said that organising the fundraiser was a welcome distraction at a time of much worry for the family:
“Hendrikje’s leukaemia has a very high recovery rate, and that is all thanks to continuing research into cancer treatment. I was keen to do some fundraising to try and help make sure that research can continue. Many around me declared me crazy to organise a fundraiser while Hendrikje was still quite poorly, and in and out of hospital, but it helped me to have something to focus on.
“I chose to organise a tea and coffee morning alongside a bake sale to try to get as many people interested and to raise as much money as possible, and the support was overwhelming.”
Now Thirza is calling on local people to whip up their very own signatures bakes – just like the stars who took part in ‘The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer’ – and host their own baking fundraisers.
She said: “One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer so we need to do something about it now.
“We all know somebody who has suffered from cancer and Stand Up To Cancer is an amazing campaign that funds research into life-saving treatments. I hope that our successful event will inspire others to get creative in the kitchen to help even more patients.”
Hendrikje said: “When I was diagnosed with leukaemia, it took a long time for me to realise that I actually had cancer. My friends and family were hit hard by the news, and at the beginning I wasn’t sure if I could get better. But thanks to the treatment I have received I feel so much better! I don’t really have to worry about it – I am able to lead a relatively normal life, continue with school and with the things I love to do.
“When I heard my mum raised over £2,500 to fund research into new treatments to help people like me, I felt really proud and couldn’t stop smiling. I hope that others will also think about organising events to help make a difference to the lives of patients with cancer.”
‘The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer’ featured celebrities including actress Michelle Keegan, presenter Caroline Flack, actor Greg Wise, ‘University Challenge’s’ Jeremy Paxman and Olympic boxer Nicola Adams.