Inspirational South Shields one-year-old sparks fundraising after cancer diagnosis - here's how to help

A toddler’s battle with a rare eye cancer has sparked a huge fundraising drive in South Shields.
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Ivor Spottiswood, 21 months, is undergoing chemotherapy and laser treatment after being diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a cancer that affects just 50-60 children in the UK a year.

It means his mum and dad, Jess and Gary, have to juggle Ivor’s treatment, which takes place at both Newcastle’s RVI as well as at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, with raising his brothers, Archie, six and Eli, four.

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Jess, 30, who lives in Laygate, says it’s turned their world upside down, but they’ve managed to remain positive thanks to the support of their family, friends and community, who’ve started fundraising drives inspired by Ivor.

Inspirational Ivor has sparked a fundraising drive for childhood eye cancerInspirational Ivor has sparked a fundraising drive for childhood eye cancer
Inspirational Ivor has sparked a fundraising drive for childhood eye cancer

Nearly £1,000 has already been raised by Jess’s friends, Leanne Silmon, Fay Wilberforce, Ashlee Elliott and Charlie Stephenson, who are each completing 2021 squats in January to raise money for CHECT (childhood eye cancer trust), a lifeline charity which has been supporting the Spottiswoods with Ivor’s diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

The mums all have children Ivor’s age and met at a baby group but, unable to offer cups of tea and play dates as support, because of Covid, they decided to do the fundraiser to help.

Leanne, who along with the other mums is fitting in the squats challenge in-between home schooling, said: “We were so shocked when we heard about Ivor, and we felt so helpless with what we could do to support the family because of Covid.

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"We’ve done a few doorstep deliveries for the family, but when we saw that CHECT were running a squat challenge we thought it would be a great thing to get on board with. At first, we only set a target of £150, but we hit that in hours of the Facebook fundraiser page launching.”

Georga Spottiswood is raising money for her nephew, Ivor Spottiswood.Georga Spottiswood is raising money for her nephew, Ivor Spottiswood.
Georga Spottiswood is raising money for her nephew, Ivor Spottiswood.

Ivor’s auntie, Georga Spottiswood, has also raised more than £2,000 with a JustGiving campaign to help pay for the cost of travelling to and from Birmingham for treatment.

She’s taking on a sponsored walk from Lands End to John O'Groats, but because of the pandemic will be doing one of the UK’s biggest walking challenges of 850 miles across 10 months with her daily permitted walks in South Shields.

She said: “The money will be used to help with everyday living, caring for Ivor and the constant 7-hour all round trips from South Shields to Birmingham – something they will have to do until Ivor is 16.”

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Georga added: “I'm just his auntie, and it hurts like hell inside, so who knows what Jess and my brother must feel. Yet, throughout it all, Ivor still keeps smiling.”

Jess said the family has been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received after their youngest son’s shock diagnosis.

"It’s mind-blowing really. You see fundraisers on Facebook and you chip in to help, but you never think it will be you who needs it. It’s totally crazy that people want to help, we never expected it,” said the mum-of-three.

She added: “The support has been fantastic from everyone: our friends and family, Gary’s work at Elavon and Eli and Archie’s teachers at Westoe Crown Primary School. Everyone else’s positivity has helped us remain positive, we don’t want to be moping around.”

What is retinoblastoma?

::Retinoblastoma is a rare childhood cancer that mainly affects children under the age of six, with approximately one child a week diagnosed in the whole of the UK.

::It has one of the best survival rates of childhood cancers, but early detection is key.

::There are a number of symptoms which can be an indication of retinoblastoma. They are: a white reflection in the eye when a photo is taken, a squint and a red or swollen eye, a change in iris colour, no red eye in one eye in a photo when the other is red and deterioration in sight.

::There are a number of treatment options, depending on each child’s case, including cryotherapy, laser therapy and chemotherapy. In more severe cases, an artificial eye may need to be fitted.

::Support can be found on the CHECT website, Tel: 020 7377 5578 or email [email protected]

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