This brave five-year-old has been forced to learn how to walk THREE times in her short life after being struck down by a rare cancer.
Isla Mansfield was diagnosed two years ago after her joints became so painful she couldn’t climb the stairs.
She had four rounds of intense chemotherapy to rid her body of the cancer which attacks tissue and creates tumours all around her body.
Three times – once in 2018 and twice in 2019 – treatments were so strong she was left too weak to walk for weeks at a time.
Shel required daily physio to help her get back on her feet, each time taking shaky first steps while her parents supported her weight, until she could walk again.
But the little fighter, known as ‘Isla Smiler’, is now getting stronger and doing better than ever.
Mum-of-four Rachael Hodgkinson, 39, from Buxton, Derbyshire, said: “When you learn your child has cancer, life as you know it changes completely, because you never expect it to happen to you.
“She’s been through so many different treatments, tests, biopsies and chemotherapies which have been awful for her.
“There were times when we didn’t think she’d make it at all.
“But Isla has always stayed so positive – even learning to walk for the third time, she remained determined and was proud whenever she got one step closer.
“The strength she has shown has been just unbelievable.
“Our little Isla Smiler is doing better than ever.”
Rachael and partner David Mansfield, 35, an electrician, first became concerned about their youngest daughter’s health in 2017 when she was two.
In June 2017 the tot suffered painful joints, which doctors said was anaemia.
Nearly a year later, in March 2018, retail assistant Rachael noticed Isla looking worse than ever.
She said: “Isla had what I can only describe as a ‘deathly look’ about her.
“I got the feeling that if I’d ignored it, she wouldn’t have woken up the following morning.”
They rushed to Chesterfield Hospital, in Derbyshire, where she had an emergency blood transfusion – but she continued to deteriorate and rapidly lost weight.
After being transferred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital, where she underwent countless tests until finally, the family were told she had cancer in May 2018.
She has a rare cancerous form of Langerhans’ Cell Hystiocytosis (LCH) which affected her liver, spleen, gut, skin, blood and bones.
The condition causes excess immune system cells to build up in the body, which damages tissue and causes tumours.
Rachael said: “Being told your child has cancer throws you into a whole new world, and life isn’t as you know it any more.
“We definitely weren’t expecting cancer – but we were relieved we finally knew what was wrong with Isla so she could be treated.”
She spent the following two years in and out of hospital having several major rounds of chemotherapy, and three times her treatments stopped her walking – in September 2018, May 2019 and December 2019.
Each time, Isla needed to build her strength up with tough daily physiotherapy sessions, and exercises she did with the help of sister Olivia, 10.
Rachael said Isla’s positivity and determination kept the whole family going.
She said: “It was so tough for her, but once she puts her mind to something, she surprises us all.
“Every time Isla would manage to take a step, she’d be so proud of herself and give us the biggest smile.
“That’s how she got the nickname ‘Isla Smiler’ – even at the toughest moments you could always get a smile out of her.”
The last round of intensive chemotherapy was successful in controlling the condition and Isla arrived home just in time to spend Christmas with family while she recovered.
She started an 18-month course of twice-monthly maintenance chemotherapy in January, and started school part-time in September.
Rachael who also has older sons Lewis, 20, and Ryan, 16, said: “There were times when we didn’t think Isla would survive, but everyone is more hopeful now because she’s been doing so well recently.
“We just have to hope and pray it stays this way, because we’ve seen how unpredictable the disease can be – but the strength she’s shown has been unbelievable, and it’s amazing how far she’s come.”
“That wouldn’t have been possible without the fantastic team at Sheffield Children’s Hospital who did everything they can for us despite Isla’s complex case.
“I cannot praise them enough.”
The Children’s Hospital Charity is now fundraising to renovate the Cancer and Leukemia ward where doctors saved Isla’s life: https://www.tchc.org.uk/