Sunderland girl’s battle with cancer inspires her dad to help others

Craig Mills with daughters, from left, Alisha, Alexis and Katie.
Craig Mills with daughters, from left, Alisha, Alexis and Katie.
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A schoolgirl’s brave battle with cancer has inspired her dad to help other families struck by the disease.

Downhill youngster Alisha Mills was just five-years-old when she and her family were given the devastating blow that she had a brain tumour.

Rays of Sunshine created memories we will never forget.

Craig Mills

The tumour, along with a growth behind her eye, were only discovered after dad Craig Mills, 36, was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, or NF1, which causes the growth of tumours.

Though the hereditary condition hasn’t led to cancer in Craig, it caused the development of the disease in Alisha, now eight, who went on to have an 18-month course of chemotherapy at Newcastle’s RVI hospital.

“I have a lot of birthmarks on my body and it led to me being diagnosed as carrying NF1,” he said.

“I have four daughters and they were all tested after I was diagnosed, as there was a 50 per cent chance I could pass it on.

“Three of the girls were fine. But when they tested Alisha they discovered she had a large brain tumour, as well as a small tumour behind her eye.

“It was a massive shock as she’d had no pain or symptoms. We ended up spending hours on the internet, doing loads of research.

“It was tough on the family when Alisha was having her treatment. She spent a lot of time in hospital as she kept getting infection after infection.”

At the family’s lowest ebb, their spirits were lifted by the Rays of Sunshine charity who whisked the family off to Disneyland Paris, somewhere Alisha had always wanted to go.

“It was just amazing,” said Craig.“It must have cost about £2,000/£3,000 and they paid for all of us to go.”

The family – including mum Mickela Todhunter, 34, and daughters Katie, seven and Alexis, four – went on the trip last year.

“It created memories we will never forget,” said Craig, who was so touched by the charity that he’s decided to do a skydive to help fund other families’ trips.

Alisha still has regular MRI scans and eye tests, but has gone back to her normal life, enjoying lessons at Marlborough Primary School in Washington.

Craig said: “She’s doing absolutely great now. Rays of Sunshine helped us at the worst of times and I want to give something back to them.”

The dad-of-four is planning to take on the feat at Shotton Airfield.

Rays of Sunshine children’s charity was formed in 2003 to brighten the lives of children across the country, who are living with serious or life-limiting illnesses, between the ages of three-18.

It does this by granting their wishes to meet people or go places.

• To sponsor Craig visit www.justgiving.com/craig-mills5/