Isla was just two years old when she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer. After numerous tests and hospital visits, her right eye was removed at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Through it all, she was incredibly brave, putting up with complete strangers examining her in strange buildings and asking her questions when all she wanted to do was play with her toys in the safety of her house. She was still a baby.
Thankfully, Isla’s cancer was caught in time. She now faces a lifetime of coping with an artificial eye – nothing at all when you look at some other families and the terrible things that have befallen them – but a life-changing experience nonetheless.
Through the Christian Lewis Trust, Isla, now four, spent three wonderful days at Disneyland Paris with her mum Julie, dad Richard and little brother Charlie, two.
From the moment she arrived, Isla was treated like a little princess. She was given a blue priority badge to wear around her neck and, as soon as anyone employed by Disney saw her, they dropped everything to make her feel welcome. We were whisked to the front of every queue, she got to meet all her favourite Disney characters and she danced around the park like she was floating on air.
Her current favourite, Sleeping Beauty, made a real fuss of Isla, spending five minutes chatting to her, cuddling her and signing her little autograph book – all in front of 500 people who had no hope of getting the same treatment.
At first we felt guilty. It’s the English way – we don’t like being pushy and we’re not comfortable getting preferential treatment. But, as it says in the Christian Lewis-provided handbook, you’re there because you’ve been invited and you’re getting VIP treatment because you deserve it. After everything Isla had been through, to see the smile on her face when she met Belle on stage within five minutes of arriving at Disneyland was an extremely emotional moment.
So thank you Christian Lewis Trust. You gave our little girl probably the three happiest days of her life so far and for that we will be eternally grateful.