‘There’s something very special about Niamh, you fall in love with her’

WELLINGBOROUGH. Feature about five-year-old Niamh Curry whose family is raising money to send her to America for life-sving treatment for a rare cancer Mum and dad are Chris and Samantha Curry, eldest daughter is Hannah
WELLINGBOROUGH. Feature about five-year-old Niamh Curry whose family is raising money to send her to America for life-sving treatment for a rare cancer Mum and dad are Chris and Samantha Curry, eldest daughter is Hannah

Were it not for the telltale short hair, you would think Niamh Curry is a normal, healthy little girl.

She turned five last week and is happily playing with some of the new toys she bought with her birthday money from Toys R Us on Sunday.

She started school in September, going to Little Harrowden Primary School with her big sister Hannah, seven, and she’s recently joined the Rainbows.

But Niamh has missed quite a bit of school already and she sometimes feels too tired to go to Rainbows.

Just over a year ago she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive childhood cancer. She has already been through surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and her parents Chris and Samantha have now exhausted their treatment options here in the UK.

They have launched a desperate fundraising campaign to raise £450,000 for potentially life-saving treatment in the US.

The family, of Troon Crescent, Wellingborough, has received £30,000 within just 11 days of launching the appeal and they’ve been overwhelmed by the level of support.

Samantha, 36, said: “We are quite private. We kept it very quiet for a while and only told our family, but people could see from Niamh’s hair that something was wrong so we had to tell them.

“Now we have no option, we need to raise this money.

“It is amazing how everyone has come together to help us. People we don’t know are holding fundraising events for us. It feels like a dream.”

Niamh was diagnosed with stage four high risk neuroblastoma just before Christmas 2010.

It was thanks to treatment she was receiving for another condition, juvenile dermatomyositis, where the immune system attacks the muscles, that doctors picked up the cancer.

She was taking a number of different medications and dad Chris asked for a scan of her kidneys to see if she could come off one of the drugs.

It was this scan that revealed a tumour on her kidney.

When the family was given the diagnosis of neuroblastoma, mum Samantha knew all too well what this meant for her daughter.

Samantha had heard of the disease before because Niamh had the same community nurse as Chelsea Knighton, of Irthlingborough, who died from acute neuroblastoma in 2009.

It was a huge shock because Niamh had seemed to be in the best health they had seen her in for years.

Even during her subsequent treatment, Niamh has battled through it with a smile and her consultant has even doubled-checked her test results to make sure the diagnosis is right.

Niamh was put straight on a three-month course of rapid COJEC chemotherapy.

Chris, 39, who runs his own removals company, said: “Driving her to her first day of chemotherapy was the hardest thing I have ever done.”

She also had surgery to remove the tumour and started a clinical trial which would hopefully double Niamh’s chances of a cure, from between 30 and 40 per cent to 70 or 80 per cent.

Then came more chemo, stem cell treatment and 14 doses of radiotherapy – starting on her first ever day at school.

But none of it phased her. “She thinks everything is funny,” says Samantha. “She just sees the good in everything.”

In November Niamh was due to start her final bout of treatment, an antibody treatment called Anti GD2.

But three days before she was due to go into hospital, there was some terrible news. Niamh had relapsed.

The treatment she had already received was not working and Chris and Samantha were given two options – more chemotherapy to buy them some time with their daughter or to give up completely.

Samantha said: “If she had been poorly or cried whenever she went into hospital then we would have had to think about it. But she was still running around.

“There was not even a doubt about our decision.”

Niamh began another round of chemo in November and her parents find out this week what impact, if any, that has had.

But they know there are no more treatment options here in the UK for Niamh.

That’s why they are now raising money to pay for treatment in America, where there are six times more cases of children with neuroblastoma than in Britain and treatment is more advanced.

As for Niamh, she continues to smile through the treatment, going to school whenever she can and doing the same things as every other five-year-old girl.

Chris said: “She just wants to follow Hannah’s path, like joining the Rainbows. We try to keep life normal as best we can.

“She’s very sensible. She wanted to join the Rainbows like Hannah but if she’s too tired to go one week, she’ll say so.”

Samantha added: “There is something special about her, she makes everyone fall in love with her a little bit.”