A group of thirty walkers will make an emotional journey this weekend as they join the Tanser family to raise funds for Cure Leukaemia on behalf of their daughter Willow, who has been battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) for the past 12 months.

This weekend, the family and friends of Craig and Jess Tanser will gather to make a symbolic and emotional walk as they walk the fifteen mile journey between Royal Derby Hospital and the Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) in Nottingham – the journey they took on the day of Willow’s diagnosis 12 months ago.

Willow was diagnosed with ALL back in March 2023 aged just three years old. She had suffered with a number of viral infections before a series of spots appeared (a result of Willow’s platelets being low) prompting her parents to take to hospital for blood tests.

The first thing the parents were told shocked them deeply. “The nurses immediately told us, ‘do you realise how poorly your daughter is. I am just trying to prepare you for the worst.”

“You just don’t think it is going to happen to anyone you know, especially your own daughter. We obviously knew what leukaemia is, but it was just a complete state of shock.

“The first thing we thought was – is she going to die? No one likes to see a poorly child – especially when it is your own child. Your whole world falls apart”

Upon arrival at the QMC, Craig and Jess were given a decision as to which hospital they would be treated in. QMC were running a clinical trail that Willow would be able to enrol in immediately, or she could wait two weeks and be treated at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. They decided to stay in Nottingham so that Willow could start treatment immediately.

When Willow was released as an out-patient, her parents quickly had to adapt to a new normal – administering medication on a strict timetable in order to keep Willow stable.

“You have to basically become medical professionals. She was being treated with 12 medications a day. We have to administer chemotherapy at home. We have to ensure we are giving her the right doses in the syringes. Her Central Line is so important to her treatment so we have to monitor as she can quickly catch sepsis (blood poisoning) if that were to become infected.”

As a result of her treatments, Willow missed out on a lot of childhood activities and everything in the family’s life had to be pre-planned in case of emergency.

“She couldn’t go to nursery, she couldn’t go to soft play, she couldn’t go swimming. We can’t just decided one day to go to a theme park or away for a weekend. Everything has to be pre-planned. For example, if we were to go away for the weekend, we must inform the hospital, so that they can then contact the hospital where we are going so they can be on standby in case anything happens.”

“It has really altered her brain chemistry. A child her age shouldn’t even know what chemotherapy or cancer is. She has been forced to grow up a lot quicker than she should have done. She knows a lot more than a child her age should need to know.”

Things are currently looking up for Willow though and the clinical trial that she is on is helping to fight the ALL currently in her blood.

Over the past couple of months, she has definitely come out of her shell. She has more of her personality back now.”

In recent weeks, she has had her Central Line removed which will give Willow so much more freedom. She will be able to bath properly, go swimming, and we have heard she’s SO excited to hopefully be able to get away to the beach in the summer!

The family are walking in support of Cure Leukaemia’s HATE campaign this weekend that sees the charity fundraising to launch a paediatric trials network which will deliver world-class, innovative and practice changing clinical trials to improve outcomes for children with leukaemia throughout the UK undergoing a stem cell transplant across the major metropolitan cities of the UK.

Hopefully Cure Leukaemia’s trial network will give children a better chance of survival and a better quality of life.”

“We have spoken to a number of adult patients (at Cure Leukaemia events) that have been treated by Clinicians across the country, and without all of these clinical trials taking place, they wouldn’t be here now.

“That just goes to show how far Cure Leukaemia have come in terms of adults trials, so we can only imagine how much progress can be made in paediatric treatments with the right funding, so it will just be amazing to see children get the hope that we all want for our children.”

Click here to support the Walk for Willow