The parents of a Harborough village schoolgirl fighting a rare brain cancer are battling to raise £200,000 in a bid to save their “superhero’s” life.
Vanessa Kelly, 32, and her husband John, 42, have already topped £25,000 as they pull out all the stops to get their 12-year-old daughter Grace the immunotherapy she needs at a clinic in Germany.
And the couple are now working flat out day in day out to hit their ambitious target this year to secure the pioneering treatment which may be brave Grace’s only hope.
Talking to the Harborough Mail today, Vanessa, of Great Glen, said: “We are fighting night and day to do all we can to raise the £200,000 we need to go to Germany and give Grace immunotherapy.
“It could be pivotal and it could well prove to be a turning point.
“It’s very expensive, the vaccines cost £20,000 each, and it’s available now to adults in the UK but not to children,” said Vanessa.
“So it’s a huge headache for us all and incredibly frustrating to say the least.
“But we just have to get on with it and do what we ever need to to give Grace the best possible chance of living a long life.
“We are carrying out endless research into possible treatments and cures ourselves, we are talking to other people in our position all the time.
“We are obviously no experts and it feels like it’s a needle in a haystack at times trying to find the best way forward,” said the passionate and resilient mum-of-three.
“But Grace just turned 12 on Saturday (February 19).
“She’s got her whole life in front of her – and we won’t leave any stone unturned as we fight to save her life.
“We will never give up.”
The family’s nightmare blew up out of the blue last August when Grace, who was due to start Beauchamp College in Oadby, went to have a routine eye check-up.
The optician spotted a swelling behind Grace's eye and immediately referred her to Leicester Royal Infirmary for an emergency MRI scan.
"We were told she had a brain tumour," said Vanessa, who’s also got a daughter Marissa, nine, and son Nathan, seven.
Grace had most of the killer tumour removed in a long and complex operation at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre.
“She had to stay in hospital for nearly two weeks and underwent surgery lasting eight hours to remove about 80 per cent of the tumour.
“A biopsy was sent off and a week later we were given the devastating diagnosis that our beautiful girl had the stage 4 brain cancer Glioblastoma Multiforme,” said Vanessa.
“We were utterly devastated and cried all the way home from the hospital.
“It broke our hearts when we had to break the news to Grace – but she was so brave and vowed to beat this terrible thing.
“She’s been in and out of hospital having treatment.
“We go to Leicester Royal Infirmary for regular check-ups every Tuesday.
“This week I’m giving Grace chemotherapy myself at home for five days before she has five weeks off it because it is so strong and powerful.
“We’re happy at the moment with how she’s doing.
“She lost part of her eyesight before Christmas due to a combination of the tumour and radiotherapy.
“But that’s coming back now and she can see much better which is great,” said Vanessa.
“Grace has been so strong, just so relentlessly positive fighting this cancer, we are so proud of her.
“We have good days, we have bad days, it’s been a real emotional rollercoaster.
“But as a family we have stuck together and Marissa and Nathan have also been so good supporting Grace,” said Vanessa.
“I’ve got to say that we are proud of them as well.
“The doctors are amazed at how well Grace is doing and she’s told them straight out – ‘I’m going to beat this’.
“Grace is still learning at home at the moment but we’re hoping to get her back into school in the next fortnight or so.
“But looking ahead long term it’s obviously very hard.
“We’ve been told that there is a big possibility that Grace will lose her life to this.
“It’s a very rare aggressive brain cancer and there is no cure,” said Vanessa, who was a healthcare assistant at Melton Mowbray Hospital.
“Grace is upbeat and she’s up for the fight even though it’s so tough for her and it’s truly terrifying for all of us.
“But we need to get her this immunotherapy treatment as soon as possible – and certainly in the next 12 months.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge raising the £200,000 we need to fund it at the clinic in Germany.
“But we’ve already generated over £25,000 and we are lining up many more fundraising events for the better weather.
“I’ve given up my job and my husband John has taken a year off, he works on building sites as a self-employed telehandler.
“We are dedicating just about every minute we can to getting Grace the help and the treatment she so urgently needs to give her a fighting chance,” vowed Vanessa.
“And we’d like to thank every single person who has donated to help us pass our target and carry out our absolutely crucial quest.”
She spoke about their raw heart-rending story as friends Karen Humphrey and Belinda Jayne Gilbert held a craft fair at Fleckney village hall on Saturday (February 19) to help boost their critical cause.
Karen said: “I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who attended our event and raising over £700 to get behind Grace and her family.
“To all the wonderful stallholders, visitors, friends and family - you make all the hard work that goes into these events worthwhile, even on a wet day.”
And if you would like to help Vanessa and her family hit the magical £200,000 figure and achieve their miracle mission you can donate on their fundraising webpage here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/vanessa-kelly-2