A Melton mum is raising thousands of pounds for a cancer charity as a gesture of thanks for supporting her family after her toddler son was diagnosed with the disease almost 20 years ago.
Nikola Dolphin-Rowland was devastated to be told Joseph had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia back in May 1998.
He was only two-years- old at the time and she was six months pregnant with her second child.
As Nikola spent many difficult weeks by her son’s bedside in the Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) in Nottingham she met a woman who worked for the CLIC Sargent charity.
They then supported the family for the difficult years which were to follow, paying for travel and accommodation for hospital visits, giving nursing support and helping Joseph prepare for his many treatments.
Today, Joseph is in remission and working as a plasterer as a healthy 21-year- old.
Nikola (42) is determined to give something back and is embarking on a series of fundraising activities in a bid to raise £2,000 for the charity, culminating in running the London Marathon next year.
She said: “I don’t know how I would have coped if it wasn’t for CLIC Sargent.
“They have helped me and my family so much, both financially and emotionally.
“I never thought all those years ago that Joseph would be well enough to work and be self-sufficient and a lot of that is down to the support of the charity.”
Nikola’s world was turned upside down when an oncology consultant told her Joseph’s diagnosis.
He had to go through a gruelling four-year course of chemotherapy and suffered a series of side-effects, such as kidney infections, mouth ulcers, pains in his joints, bleeding gums, bruising, pneumonia and the loss of his hair.
“You don’t think your child is going to have something like cancer,” said Nikola, who works as a senior team leader at a Rutland school.
“It’s like the end of the world to you – it’s absolutely devastating.”
CLIC Sargent proved to be her salvation, visiting the hospital every day to give emotional support and guidance on what to expect in the difficult years after Joseph’s diagnosis.
The charity also helped the family pay bills and ensure they had enough food, clothing, blankets and towels.
They helped with petrol money for hospital visits and provided Joseph with a play specialist to make it easier for him to deal with his treatment and his long stays on medical wards.
A CLIC Sargent nurse also visited regularly after he was ready to go home and the charity paid for him to visit a nursery school and for a family holiday.
Joseph feels healthy now but recently contracted meningitis twice, with the second bout two years ago almost claiming his life.
He lives at home with his mum, brother Harry (19) and 14-year- old sister Imogen.
Nikola is thankful also for the support of her parents, Chris and Anne Genes, who recently raised £736 for her fundraising pot with a fete in their garden.
Her training for next April’s marathon has helped her shed almost six stone in weight in the last year.
She added: “People think I’m mad to do the marathon but I’ve done a few runs now and I feel great.
“I will never forget what CLIC Sargent did for me and I want to raise some money to help other families who are in the same position as we were.”
Nikola is also staging another fundraiser on Sunday with a charity dog walk in Melton Country Park.
It starts at 11am at the visitor centre and costs £2 to take part.
Go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/nikola-dolphin-rowland to pledge money online to Nikola’s fundraising drive.