A schoolgirl and her family are looking forward to a brighter new year as she prepares to complete her cancer treatment.
Leukaemia patient Sophie Laidler spent Christmas 2016 under sedation, with her family warned the ventilator she was on might only be buying her time.
She was finally brought round that Boxing Day as she began to recover from pneumonia and sepsis, which developed because her gruelling treatment had depleted her immune system.
Last Christmas, the nine-year-old, from Seaham, was continuing to undergo chemotherapy.
Now she is counting down the days until she is invited to ring the bell to signal the end of her cancer course at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) after spending this festive season at home with her family.
To mark the end of her treatment, her family are planning a wedding-style celebration, saying they want to bring all their loved ones together for a party after once fearing they would have to plan her funeral.
I don’t think she quite understands how ill she has been, but we are so proud of her.Nicola Laidler
Signs of Sophie’s illness began when she became tired, complained of aches and pains in her shins and occasionally limped, but her parents Nicola and Paul thought it had been due to growing pains.
A rash spotted one evening in October 2016 led to a precautionary trip to Sunderland Royal’s A&E – despite Sophie’s protestations as she felt well – and within hours, doctors had diagnosed her with the disease.
The next day, Sophie, a pupil at St Joseph’s RC Primary in Murton, was rushed to the RVI and treatment began, with her parents “distressed and devastated” as they came to terms with the news.
By mid-November, her condition had deteriorated due to the chest infection and as her organs struggled because of sepsis, with a ventilator used to keep her breathing until Boxing Day, when doctors began to reduce her support and she woke.
Her chemo was put on hold until March, although its restart left her facing the heartache of losing her hair all over again.
Nicola, 32, a student nurse, and dad Paul, 39, an engineer, who have separated, juggled the tough task of keeping a watch over her as they also cared for Sophie’s sisters Chloe, 11, and Heidi, Nicola’s son Harrison Scorer, four, and Paul’s daughter Lucy, now one, with his wife Vicky.
“We were on a cliff edge for a few days and we were told to take something positive from each day,” Nicola said.
“We had been scared because she was so sick.
“Her school has been amazing and they say they were praying for her in church.”
Early in February, once Sophie finishes taking chemotherapy tablets, the family will gather for a party, with entertainment and a three-tier cake in the planning.
Nicola added: “We’re thinking of it as being like a wedding reception, but without a bride and groom.
“There was a time when we thought we might have to plan a funeral, so it feels right spending this money on a very big celebration.
“We all had an amazing Christmas and we’re having a tea party for Chloe as well because it was her birthday on Boxing Day.
“She’s been really good during the treatment and she has to take 12 tablets every day.
“I don’t think she quite understands how ill she has been, but we are so proud of her.”
She added her thanks to the Rainbow Trust, which has offered sibling support to help them keep Sophie’s sisters and brother entertained.