Unite against cancer
LOUISA Buttery was so young when she was diagnosed with leukaemia that she won’t remember her six months in hospital, the repeated rounds of chemotherapy, or her bone marrow transplant.
The condition was diagnosed after the now healthy six-year-old failed to thrive in her first few weeks of life.
But although four out of five children diagnosed with leukaemia now survive, the prognosis was bleak for Louisa when she failed to go into remission after three courses of chemotherapy.
Her mum, Davina, who lives in Surrey with Louisa, husband Darren and their other children Charlotte, 10, and Eddie, eight, says: “It was extremely tough on us all.
“Doctors advised us that she would need a bone marrow transplant, so the whole family was tested.”
Brother Eddie’s bone marrow was found to be a perfect match for Louisa, and she had a transplant when she was just six-months-old, and Eddie was three.
The transplant was a success, and after another dose of chemotherapy Louisa went into remission and was able to leave hospital in time for her first Christmas.
Nurse Davina and husband Darren, a policeman, were supported during Louisa’s battle by Children with Leukaemia, and they have since raised money for the charity, including running a marathon for it.
“They’ve really supported us, kept us informed about leukaemia research and so on, and fundraising for them is the least we can do,” insists Davina.
Leukaemia is the UK’s most common childhood cancer, accounting for around a third of all cases.
It has many different symptoms, which can often be nonspecific and vague, and range from lethargy, failure to thrive and irritability, to recurrent fevers, abdominal, muscular or bony pain, swollen lymph nodes, easy bruising, and repeated common childhood infections.
Survival rates from the disease have increased dramatically because of vast improvements in treatment – 50 years ago child- hood leukaemia was nearly always fatal, but today at least four out of five children diagnosed with the disease survive.
However, around 50 children a year die from leukaemia, sometimes after enduring years of gruelling treatment.
Children with Leukaemia has raised more than £100 million since it was formed in 1988, helping to fund research into the cause of leukaemia, its treatment and prevention.
Now, chefs like Ken Hom, Antony Worrall Thompson and Antonio Carluccio are raising money to help fight the disease and help children like Louisa by donating a variety of food-focused experiences, including cooking lessons and meals with them, for an online raffle.
Proceeds from the £10-a-ticket Chefs Unite raffle will go to the charity Children with Leukaemia to help young victims of the disease and their families, both through funding research and providing valuable support for parents.
Italian TV chef Carluccio says he got involved with Chefs Unite after hearing how much suffering children with leukaemia go through, and realising his culinary skills could be used to help them.
He says: “The stories I’ve heard of children fighting leukaemia have moved me because they show immense strength and courage.”
Caroline Blakely, chief executive of Children with Leukaemia, says the charity is “delighted” that so many eminent chefs are supporting its latest fundraising venture.
“Cookery programmes and celebrity chefs are really popular these days, so it seemed the perfect time to launch a new type of fundraising initiative,” she explains.
Prizes for the Chefs Unite raffle, which is open until July 7, include a five course meal for four at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, a morning with Heston Blumenthal in The Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen, a cooking lesson with Antonio Carluccio in his own kitchen and a banquet for four in Ken Hom’s Paris apartment.
Tickets for the Chefs Unite raffle can be bought by visiting www.chefsunite.co.uk
A family photo of Louisa Buttery aged four months, who was diagnosed with Leukaemia when she was just three weeks old, main picture. Left, Louisa, now six, sitting on her garden swing with her family at her Surrey home. The Buttery family are Darren and Davina Buttery, with their other children Eddie aged 8, and Charlotte aged 10.