3 years ago I asked Kelly and Mark along with their two gorgeous children, Alex and Ava if they’d like a photo session. They did, but the time was never right.
This was because just over 3 and a half years ago Ava was diagnosed with Hepatoblastoma, a cancerous tumour of the liver, when she was just 19 months old. Ava underwent months of medical intervention including chemotherapy, blood and platelet transfusions and ultimately a liver transplant. She beat this disease in 2014. In May 2016 Ava became unwell again and it was discovered that she had secondary acute myeloid leukaemia. By August 2016 she had racked up a total of 2564 beads of courage, with each bead representing a procedure that she had endured. This included more chemotherapy, 30 additional platelet transfusions, 11 blood transfusions and a bone marrow transplant. Ava has spent a significant time in hospital in Birmingham, Manchester and Alder Hey. Many of these hospital stays have been in isolation to minimise the risk of infection.
Ava’s story has been close to the hearts of many over the last 3 years including their family, friends, work colleagues, the Liverpool Family Law circuit and complete strangers who have heard of the bravery of Ava and her amazing Mum, Dad and big brother who have shared every step of the journey with her. People instinctively just wanted to do something to show these incredible people how much they were supported.
Marathons were run (you can see the build up to that here and the coverage of that marathon here) and fundraisers were organised all in Ava’s name. Many of us, who had never met Ava in person, were touched to the core by the struggle this little girl was going through as well as the physical and emotional impact of this on her family.
With Ava being back at school and the anniversary of Ava’s bone marrow transplant reached, Kelly and Mark were ready for some photos of their wonderful family. We headed to Formby and played on the beach for a few hours. Alex and Ava are so much fun and just got stuck in and were very happy when I told them they could kick as much water at me as they wanted! You only have to look as these pictures to see what a close family they are. The connection they all have with each other was a joy to photograph.
As a couple Kelly and Mark are courageous, humble and are always thinking of others. I’ll hand over to them to tell you what they have done and what they want to do to help other families.
“Our amazing daughter, Ava, has battled cancer, twice. During both periods of treatment she spent large amounts of time in isolation, most recently throughout her stem cell transplant and recovery.
It was incredibly difficult, the isolation affected the whole of our family both, physically and emotionally. But the kindness and generosity of friends, family and strangers really lifted all of our spirits and helped us to face each day. Receiving a small gift, or even just a message, always brought a welcome feeling of not being alone. In that moment, knowing that someone had thought about your child and/or you, meant the world.
Our aim is to help children and their families who are in the same position that we have been in.
Last year, with the help of donations we reached families with ‘Ava’s Advent-ure’, donating toy advent calendars to the bone marrow transplant unit and oncology wards at RMCH and the oncology ward at Alder Hey. This gave the kids something to look forward to each day in December and took their minds off their treatment for a short while.
We would love to be able to do the same again this year.
We are also working towards providing bespoke care/treat packages for children and families in isolation on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit in RMCH. Our hope is that we can provide items that they need or want to make their stay a little less isolating. This could be anything from a special pair of pyjamas, a much wanted toy, to vouchers for the parents/carers to treat themselves to a coffee and cake when they manage to get a break.
We will be arranging various activities in the coming weeks and months to raise funds to fulfil our aims and every donation big or small will make a huge difference. If you are inspired by our story and want to help please consider donating or feel free to organise your own event!
We would love for you to help us let those children and families know that they are not alone
You can follow our progress via our Facebook page
Help spread the word!”
If you would like to help this amazing family reach their goals to help others then you can do via their go fund me page.