Supportive little sister Poppy, from Northampton, wins prestigious award for helping sister with cancer

Poppy with sister Gracie
Poppy with sister Gracie

A five-year-old Northampton girl has received a prestigious award in recognition of the incredible support she has given to her big sister during her cancer battle.

Poppy Belle Hyland, of Cavendish Drive, was just a newborn baby when her sister Gracie, two, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare and aggressive type of childhood eye cancer.

In recognition of her outstanding support, Poppy has been named as a CHECT Champion by the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT).

Poppy’s mum, 37-year-old Jodine Hyland, who nominated her for the award, says it was because of her youngest daughter that Gracie was diagnosed in the first place.

She said: “Like all proud parents, my husband Russell and I took lots of photos of our new baby with her big sister and put them on Facebook to share with family and friends. One of Russell’s work colleagues sent him a private message to say that he had seen a white glow in Gracie’s left eye and had read in the news that this could mean cancer.”

The white glow in Gracie’s eye, which was seen in the photo when the flash was used, is one of the main symptoms of retinoblastoma.

Jodine and dad, Russell took Gracie straight to the local eye hospital and were quickly referred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, which is one of two specialist centres for retinoblastoma in the UK. It was there that they received Gracie’s diagnosis.

Jodine added: “The tumour was so large that the only option was to remove Gracie’s eye as soon as possible to stop cancer spreading. We were in shock, we had only just had a baby and were still recovering from that, and we just couldn’t believe it was happening.

“Poppy is an unsung hero. If you think about what her life has been like, her whole existence has been overshadowed by the fact that her sister was battling a serious illness but it just didn’t upset her at all. She is always willing to hold a hand and give cuddles and she has never once grumbled – she is such a kind, sensitive and unique little girl.”

Gracie needed to have her left eye removed to stop the cancer spreading, followed by years of travelling to hospital in Birmingham for regular check ups.

For Poppy, this has meant spending much of the first few years of her life travelling, sitting in waiting rooms and often getting a lot less attention than her sister, but she has never once complained.

The surgery went well and Gracie now wears an artificial eye, fortunately, she didn’t need any further treatment.

Now Poppy helps Gracie, currently aged seven, with her artificial eye, offering to help her clean it and put it back in.

Patrick Tonks, chief executive of CHECT, said: “Diagnosis, treatment and check-ups following retinoblastoma can cause an immense amount of disruption and upset to family life, not just on the patient but on their siblings too. Our CHECT Champion awards were established to recognise the outstanding bravery of all children affected by Rb – this may be children who have had Rb themselves or their siblings.

“Despite her young age and the upheaval in her life, Poppy has shown an incredible amount of patience, love and support for her sister, and we are very pleased to honour her with this well-deserved award. Well done Poppy!”

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