'Don't let more families go through this' says grieving mum of Sheffield girl, 5, killed by brain tumour
The devastated family of a ‘one of a kind’ five-year-old killed by a brain tumour say more funding is desperately needed to prevent others suffering the same heartbreak.
Katie Froggatt died peacefully at her home in Handsworth, Sheffield, last month, just under a year after being diagnosed with the disease she would battle so bravely.
Her mum Stacey is determined to raise awareness of the ‘horrible, horrible’ illness, which claims around 5,000 lives a year, to help pay for the research which could offer hope for others.
Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40, according to The Brain Tumour Charity, yet of more than £500 million spent each year on cancer research in the UK, they account for less than three per cent.
Speaking days after laying Katie to rest, at a funeral where mourners were encouraged to wear pink tops and bring glitter and unicorn horns in celebration of a tragically short life ‘lived to the fullest’, Stacey said this had to change.
“Brain tumours are horrible, horrible things, but until it happens to someone you love I don’t think most people realise how big a killer they are,” she said.
“We didn’t get to save Katie but let’s save the next one, because no family should have to go through this.
“It’s not right that there’s so little being spent on finding a cure. People need to stand up to raise awareness of brain tumours and how we should be spending much more on research.”
Katie had seemed ‘absolutely fine’, according to her parents, until a few days after she started school last September they noticed her right eye was turning slightly inwards.
Stacey and Ben, Katie’s dad, weren’t too concerned at first, assuming she had a lazy eye, and a doctor told them there was nothing to be worried about.
But after noticing a slight swelling on the bridge of Katie’s nose, Stacey took her to A&E, and in a matter of hours their world was turned ‘inside out and upside down’.
An eye test that Friday revealed a swelling behind her eye, which scans showed was caused by a plum-sized brain tumour, and the following Monday she was in the operating theatre.
They were told Katie had a grade four glioma, which is an aggressive form of brain cancer, and after bravely undergoing radiotherapy and several courses of chemotherapy she sadly died on Saturday, July 20.
“Katie was one of a kind. She was very caring and kind, and she was into everything,” said Stacey.
“She gets to be forever five, which is a good age to be because she’ll never have to worry about money or anything else. She just lived life to the fullest."
Doting aunt Katie Spick described her niece as a ‘very strong-willed girl’ who was ‘always so full of life’.
Stacey told how Katie refused to let the disease, or the demanding treatment, dull her spirit.
“She was always so brave. The first time she had to have a finger prick she cried, but every time after that she would hold up her hand and proudly say ‘not crying, no tears’,” said Stacey
One of Katie’s favourite games was ‘floor is lava’, where players compete to get off the floor as quickly as possible once those words are uttered and the last to do so must pay the forfeit of doing a ‘crazy dance’.
Stacey said her daughter loved playing this with her friends and older siblings Naomi, aged seven, and nine-year-old Logan, and, showing how she retained her sense of fun right up to the end, Katie’s last words were ‘floor is lava’.
Katie’s friends and family were determined to fill her final months with as much joy as possible, and with the help of a community touched by her plight they managed to raise around £18,000 to pay for treats and ensure Stacey and Ben could spend as much time with her without having to worry about paying the bills.
Stacey said they would be ‘eternally thankful’ for everyone’s support, not just those who had given money but the ‘amazing’ teams at Weston Park Hospital and Sheffield Children’s Hospital, which she described as being like a second family.
The family showed their gratitude by donating £400 to buy toys for other children attending Weston Park and the same amount for the charity PACT, which supports the families of children with cancer and was an invaluable source of assistance during Katie’s treatment, from providing sandwiches to arranging haircuts.
They were incredibly touched by the response when they appealed during Katie’s final days for people to bring animals to their house to cheer her up. A veritable menagerie turned up at their door, including kittens, a hedgehog and much more.
Katie’s parents were even able to grant her dying wish of riding a unicorn – or at least a pony sporting a horn, which was the closest they could get.
The fundraising will not stop with Katie’s death. Her family are already planning memorial events to raise much-needed money for brain tumour research.
Sarah Lindsell, The Brain Tumour Charity’s chief executive, said: “Our hearts go out to Stacey and Ben for the loss of their gorgeous little girl, and we’re so grateful they’re sharing Katie’s story to help us raise awareness.
“Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and under-40s. Over £500m a year is spent on cancer research a year in the UK, less than 3 per cent of which is spent on brain tumours.
“Research is our only real hope of improvement in treatments to save more lives and reduce long-term disabilities caused by brain tumours.
“Our HeadSmart campaign aims to raise awareness of children’s brain tumour symptoms and reduce diagnosis time – the campaign has already halved this on average from 13 weeks to six-and-a-half, and we aim to further reduce this to four weeks or under.”
For more information and to donate, visit thebraintumourcharity.org.