Annabelle Higgins, 10, from Ramsgate, Kent
In 2012 Annabelle was diagnosed with pilocytic astrocytoma, a brain tumour. Surgery removed most of the tumour but unfortunately, in 2014 it had grown.
Annabelle Higgins had proton beam therapy in Oaklahoma, USA in 2015.
Further surgery followed in 2015. However, some of the tumour had grown into the brain stem and so Annabelle was referred to the UCLH radiotherapy team. The option of proton beam therapy was discussed and agreed on as the best treatment as it would reduce the potential long-term side effects of radiotherapy.
Over the next few months, preparations were made for Annabelle to have treatment in Oklahoma as part of the NHS overseas programme. Towards the end of June 2015, Annabelle and her parents flew out and treatment started shortly after they arrived. While Annabelle was receiving treatment, the family felt really well looked after.
“Annabelle didn’t really have any side effects from the treatment. She lost a bit of hair and was a bit more tired than normal.” said her dad, Stephen.
Between treatment sessions, the family had some special activities arranged for them by local organisations. These all tapped into Annabelle’s hobbies of ice skating, music and drawing. “We went to the local ice skating rink and one of the coaches helped her skate and then they found out it was nearly her birthday and gave her an early party”, explains Stephen.
And then the family got involved the rink’s annual ice skating competition; Annabelle drew the programme cover, sang the American national anthem, recorded a sound track and performed! The family also had a tour of the local university and got involved in their Coaches v Cancer charity. Stephen said “Annabelle had a ball out there. It was a wonderful experience.”
Despite the great time the family had, Stephen says that getting there was “a bit fraught” and thinks that having proton beam therapy available in London will be a great benefit. “It is a bit hot in Oklahoma! And, it is a long way from friends and family. When PBT is in London there will be no long flights, no jet lag and friends and family will be near by”.
Annabelle is recovering well from her treatment. She is back at school and back on the ice rink, taking part in a show at Christmas. Annabelle is also part of her school netball team and enjoying life to the full.