Isobel Raban

Isobel Raban was just 13 yrs old when she was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in November 2011. Following a flu-type bug which she couldn't shake off, the teenager then began complaining of severe back pain which suddenly got much worse.

Mum Ruth said; "Isobel had been out horse riding when she complained of pain in her back. We took her back to the doctors where she was referred to Preston Hospital for tests and scans. It happened very quickly."

Five days later, Isobel was transferred to the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital where she began a course of six cycles of chemotherapy followed by surgery on her spine.

Ruth, who works at Lancashire County Council, went on immediate extended leave. Isobel's dad Dominic is self-employed and Ruth said keeping the business going through Isobel's diagnosis and treatment was very hard.

Cutting edge 

Throughout her treatment, Isobel came to The Christie for appointments with her consultant Dr Ed Smith. The couple, who also have a son Oscar, were then given the news that Isobel's cancer needed a type of treatment called Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) - a cutting edge radiotherapy treatment.

The Raban family, who live in Preston, went to Jacksonville in Florida for around two months from June 2012 to August 2012. Isobel underwent PBT at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute.

Ruth continued: "Oscar was 12 at the time and Isobel's 14th birthday was the day after we arrived in America. 

Family together

"We would drive Isobel to her proton beam therapy appointment every day and then we would try to use the rest of the time as a holiday and do something together as a family.

"Isobel also underwent three cycles of chemotherapy whilst having proton beam therapy at a different hospital called Wolfson Children's Hospital.

"When we found out we were able to travel to America for proton beam therapy we were really pleased. As parents, Dominic and I had obviously done so much research and we knew it would be the most effective treatment for Isobel's cancer.

"That was a real turning point for us in terms of her treatment. We knew we could fight it."

But Ruth admits, going to America as a family for two months brought its own difficulties from a practical point. 

Best treatment 

"As any parent will admit, you would travel anywhere to get the best treatment for your child," said Ruth. "But there were certainly challenges in travelling to America, such as the practicalities of leaving our house empty for two months and things to consider like who would after the our dog and guinea pigs?

"We had to take Oscar out of school so he missed the last few weeks of his summer term. And Isobel really missed all her friends - but we tried to think about the positives of getting the best treatment for Isobel.

"If we'd been able to have this treatment at home then Oscar would have been able to stay in school and Isobel would have had her birthday at home, so clearly that would have been easier for all of us."

The Raban family paid extra to stay in private, out of town accommodation, but Ruth says that families in similar situations must be able to drive and confidently negotiate the America road system.

Whilst undergoing treatment for cancer, Isobel missed 12 months of school and dropped back a year. She is now busy revising for her GCSE exams.

Ruth added: "She's doing really well now and we're also incredibly proud that the school has made her a prefect for next year too.

"She will still have check-ups at the Children's Hospital but she's just getting back into normal home and school life and enjoying being a teenager - going shopping and being with friends."