A girl who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 12 says she wants other young children who find themselves in a similar position to ‘know they are not alone’, and that they can find the support to help them adapt and live with the illness.
Hope Rooms clearly remembers being told the life-changing news that she had cancer, but admits that because of her young age at the time, the significance of her diagnosis was not something she was able to fully contemplate or understand.
Of course she knew it meant life would never be the same for her and her family, and that she faced the most difficult of times ahead if she was to overcome her illness, but initially, she simply didn’t want to face the reality.
Up until being taken ill in December 2013, Hope had seemingly been a healthy girl. She had never even had a day off school.
Incredibly, after being told she had cancer in February 2014, Hope never once felt sorry for herself or complained about her life having been turned completely upside down.
Instead, she chose to focus on the positive aspects of her life and put all of her efforts into getting better, something she has done with bravery, determination, and positivity.
“There are people worse off than me,” she said, reflecting back on the past one-and-a-half years since her cancer diagnosis.
“I want other children to know they are not alone. There are loads of other children fighting cancer as well, and there are families from all different backgrounds having the same treatment and having operations.
“There are loads of people there to support you through it all. I have made some amazing friends along the way, and they have made me so happy. They have been a big support and been there for me all the way. My school friends haven’t been any different with me either, just brilliant and supportive.”
Now 14, Hope last recently returned to school following the summer holidays and has now set her focus firmly on working towards securing good GCSE grades.
Having been in remission for 12 months, she travels with her parents from their home near Hull to Leeds General Infirmary three times a month for maintenance chemotherapy and also takes oral chemotherapy tablets.
She endured 9 months of intensive chemotherapy and for six weeks had to travel every week day to St James’ Hospital in Leeds for radiotherapy, which was tiring and stressful for all, but still managed to go to school.
Hope and her mother Julie, 50, from Swanland, East Yorkshire, have spoken about her illness to mark the national Child Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout September to raise awareness of the impact of childhood cancer, and the work of groups and organisations which support young cancer patients and their families.
For Hope, her key message to other children is simply to stay positive and not to feel they are alone.
From the start, she insisted she was not dying of cancer, but living with it.
“I just thought happy thoughts, because you can’t think the worst,” she said.
“Perhaps I didn’t really take it in initially, as when I saw a younger child who had no hair I started crying because I realised what I faced then. I didn’t really want to know how serious it could be.”
Hope dedicated herself to helping others in the aftermath of her diagnosis, giving up her own time to fundraising, supporting other young cancer patients in East Yorkshire, and even comforting parents in hospital while their children underwent initial tumour investigations.
She has received two awards for her courage and bravery, and alongside her family she has raised around £4,000 for the Candlelighters charity, which provides support to families affected by cancer and funds more importantly vital research into childhood cancer.
During a school assembly, designed to educate her peers about cancer and cancer treatment, Hope told her friends cancer wasn’t as bad as “world problems”, such as hunger and poverty.
Beaming with pride over her daughter’s bravery and positivity, Hope’s mother Julie has also been through the toughest of times.
The family are currently being represented by Hudgell Solicitors with regards to Hope’s initial care in hospital, as they believe the large tumour in her abdomen, which pushed her spine out of place by the time it was discovered, should have been spotted much earlier.
Mrs Rooms has also urged other parents to trust their instincts over their children’s health.
She said: “If she had been treated earlier, maybe it could have been simpler. I’m no medical expert, but maybe it could. I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else. People need to be aware of the symptoms and what to look out for and be strong demanding the right treatment.”