Her gift touched Prince Harry… Now can we grant Anna’s wish?

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Anna in hopital


Corageous: Anna at one of her hospital stays (Image: Wayne Starr/Daily Star)

Eight-year-old Anna Drysdale presented Prince Harry with the toy when she met him the week after the royal baby was born. Now her devastated mother is appealing for help to raise £460,000 to save Anna’s life. She has fought cancer twice in three years. A rare treatment has become available in America which would likely mean the disease would never return – but it is too expensive for her family to fund.

Anna was five when first diagnosed. And now she is clinging to the hope she will get to fly on a plane to see doctors who might make her better for good.

Anna said: “I’m so lucky to have the best friends in the world who are helping to get me to New York. 

“I can’t believe how kind and generous everyone has been – I hope I can get there.”

Mother-of-three Keeley, 46, says all she wants for Christmas is to find the lump sum which they need to save her daughter’s life. She added: “We are in a race against time.

Anna gives Prince Harry a present for Archie

Anna gives the present for Archie when she met new dad Prince Harry (Image: Wayne Starr/Daily Star)

“We have weeks – we think possibly February – to get Anna this treatment. After that she probably would not fit into the criteria to receive it and that chance will be gone.

“We have been told if she gets the treatment, it is possible her cancer would never return. Without it, it almost certainly will, it is just a case of when. Every day we fear the cancer has returned, and as soon as it does, she is no longer eligible for treatment. The criteria is so hard to meet but the paperwork is done, Anna is accepted. 

“As a parent it is soul destroying to know the treatment that could cure your daughter exists, but that you can’t afford it. It is horrific.”

Anna qualifies for a new form of Immunotherapy – not available in the UK – which would teach her body to detect and target cancer cells, while boosting her immune system.

The one-off dose is available in New York and costs £460,000.

Anna was diagnosed with osteosarcoma –  a rare form of bone cancer – in February 2017 after she fell off a sofa playing with her older sisters.

Anna poses with her parents

Anna poses with her parents at their home (Image: Wayne Starr/Daily Star)

Keeley said. “She said it didn’t hurt, but felt weird. So we thought it best to get checked out.

“After X-rays and tests and scans and a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, we were called into the room. It was just Anna and I as her dad Ian was flying home from some work in Dubai.

“The second we walked in the room the entire atmosphere had changed and the consultant looked really affected and in tears nearly.

“As a mother I knew something was wrong and then he said the words ‘I am so sorry. It is a lot worse than we feared’, and then told me. I drove home and tried calling my husband Ian on repeat. I knew he was on a flight but it didn’t stop me calling over and over.

“I put on a brave face for all three girls, saying the arm needed more investigation. How do you say the word cancer?”

Two-and-a-half years of treatment started for Anna – starting with three months of chemotherapy to fight the cancer which was rated as high-grade because of the size of the tumour and how aggressive it was.

The brave youngster lost her hair during the first round of treatment. Keeley said: “It is like wearing a sign ‘My child has cancer’.
She had beautiful hair and it broke me, but she took everything in her stride.”

Anna then underwent innovative 10-hour surgery to remove the tumour, which took up the space of her entire upper arm.

“Doctors removed her humerus bone, and said the cancer had essentially turned it soft. It wasn’t even a bone, that’s why it hadn’t hurt when she fell on it. They then replaced it with her fibula bone which they removed from her leg.

Anna with her parents and dog

Anna at home alongside her family and their dog (Image: Wayne Starr/Daily Star)

“When she woke up, coincidentally on her sixth birthday, she had to learn to use her arm and learn to walk again.”

More chemotherapy followed and in May 2018 she was told she was in remission. But sadly this didn’t last long and Anna’s cancer returned in November.

She fought it with more chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and again made it back into remission, where she is now. Mum Keeley continued: “Our everyday life has changed though because she still has a compromised immune system so this week for example, Anna can’t be in school – which she loves – because there is a sick bug going around.

“Since her treatment started, people often say to me ‘I don’t know how you do it’. But the truth is, we weren’t given a choice.’

Anna met Prince Harry when he visited the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford earlier this year as part of his royal duties, and won him over with a present for the new baby.

Keeley said: “Anna was one of five who got to meet Prince Harry.

“I think he was quite taken with her, he was so lovely. She really enjoyed meeting him.”

Other famous faces to lend support is What More Can I Do? singer Jack Savoretti, actor David Tennant, and the Renault F1 team.

Actor David Tennant

Actor David Tennant is one of the celebrities who have lent their support to Anna (Image: Wayne Starr/Daily Star )

The family’s friends and family in the community of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, are doing all they can to fundraise with cake sales, calendars and even sponsored dog walks.

So far they have raised around £60,000.

Keeley said: “Everyone has been just simply amazing. Our sincerest, heartfelt thanks to everyone who has and may support us in the future. We are truly grateful.

“But the fact remains, we are still miles away, and I am terrified every single day.”

To donate, visit: https://justgiving.com/crowdfunding/Anna-Drysdale

IMMUNOTHERAPY: What is it?

● Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps a patient’s immune system fight the disease and is a type of biological therapy.

● It uses a patient’s immune system to fight the cancer by teaching it to detect and fight cancer cells without affecting and destroying white blood cells in the process, like chemotherapy does at present.

● Not all cancer treatments can be treated with immunotherapy and it has been used in the NHS but mainly for treatment of skin cancers such as melanoma.

● It can be given either through a vein or by injection under the skin or into a muscle.

● Side effects of Immunotherapy can include fevers, chills, flu-like symptoms and nausea.

● It is a relatively new form of treatment.

OSTEOSARCOMA: What is it?

Osteosarcoma is an incredibly rare type of bone cancer which is typically diagnosed in teens and young people, although it can affect adults.

But the main problem with sarcoma cancer on the whole is how rare it is.

Richard Davidson, chief executive of Sarcoma UK said: “You will often find that a GP has never seen a sarcoma before, if they see one it will probably be the only one in their career. And it isn’t their fault, but because it is so rare, it is often spotted and diagnosed when there is little that can be done because it is too late. 

“The earlier the diagnosis, the better the chance, particularly with sarcoma.” It is for this reason that next week the charity launches its Loneliest Ever Cancer campaign to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms to look for.

Richard said statistics show that 75 percent of people don’t know what a sarcoma is. He added: “Because it is rare, when someone is diagnosed it is difficult for patients and their loved ones to meet others going through the same.”

There are around 200 sub-types of sarcomas known about, but with osteosarcoma there are around 670 diagnoses in the UK every year.

For more information visit www.sarcoma.org.uk



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