BRAVE four-year-old Katie Dodd has been left paralysed by a rare cancerous tumour in her spine.
But the Farnworth youngster, and her family, have been given hope after she was given the goahead for life-changing treatment in America.
And even though Katie is in her fourth gruelling chemotherapy cycle, and cannot walk, she is still full of smiles for everyone she meets.
Mum Rebecca said: “Katie really is inspirational. When she first got her wheelchair that was hard for us, but you should have seen her go in it.
She’s really upbeat and so good, and that keeps us going.
“She’s just like any other fouryear- old girl. She loves dressing up, playing with her Barbies and loves her arts and crafts.”
Little Katie’s problems first started on August 31 when she complained to her parents about severe pains in her back.
For 17 days she was woken by the pain but, after two visits to her GP and a trip to A and E, doctors could not identify any serious problems.
But when Katie woke up on the morning of September 16, she could no longer walk or move her legs.
Mrs Dodd, of Seathwaite Road said: “She had been complaining of back pain for more than two weeks and one day she looked at me and said: ‘Mummy I can’t move my legs’.”
Mrs Dodd and husband Lee took her to the Royal Bolton Hospital where she had an MRI scan which revealed she had a 6cm tumour in the middle of her spine.
She was transferred to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, where surgeons carried out an emergency operation to decompress her spine.
But the surgery was not the end of the little girl’s ordeal, after tests confirmed the devastating news that she had a form of Ewings Sarcoma, a cancer predominantly of the bone but sometimes in the soft tissue.
It only affects about 400 people in the UK each year. Just four hours after the diagnosis, Katie started the first of 14 cycles of chemotherapy.
Mr Dodd, who has had to take three months of work to care for his daughter, said: “Everything is 100 miles an hour with Katie. We’re spending a lot of time with a physiotherapist to build her upper body strength in her arms, so we spend a lot of time doing exercises with her.”
As part of her treatment, Katie will also need radiotherapy but, due to the location of the tumour, normal radiotherapy would likely have a long-term detrimental effect on her heart and lungs.
Proton beam therapy is the most advanced and accurate form of radiotherapy which can pinpoint the exact location of the cancer without affecting other areas of the body. But the treatment is yet to be available in the UK, which is why Katie will have to go to America.
After an anxious wait, Mr and Mrs Dodd were given the goahead for the treatment by the NHS.
The average cost of Proton Beam Therapy per patient, including travel and accommodation and up to a maximum of two carers is £114,000 and will be paid for by the NHS.
Mr Dodd said: “The proton beam therapy is so important because of what Katie is going to have to deal with if she is still paralysed from her waist down. We don’t want her to have heart or respiratory problems on top of everything else.”
Mr and Mrs Dodd will need to take unpaid leave to take Katie to America with brother Joseph, aged eight, who also needs additional support for his autism. Mr Dodd, who works a machine operator in Stalybridge, has been granted three months paid leave until Christmas, and Mrs Dodd has been able to reduce her hours at a Job Centre Plus branch.
But the family will need extra financial support so they can take unpaid leave during the trip to America, which led them to start the Katie Dodd Appeal.
They are aiming to raise £10,000 to fund their extra unpaid leave from work and keep their family together.
Mr and Mrs Dodd are planning to hold a big Christmas party fundraiser on Sunday, December 23, from 1pm until 3.30pm, at the Masonic Hall in Farnworth.
Anyone interested in donating to Katie’s cause or helping with the party should visit katiedodd appeal.co.uk