Zoe Cox, a 36-year-old mum and stepmum from Whitburn in Tyne and Wear, is taking on a 305m long, 40m high zip slide over Salford Quays in Greater Manchester to raise money for The Christie. Her 16-month-old daughter is being treated for ependymoma – a rare brain cancer – at the specialist cancer centre. Zoe, who has vertigo, will take on the challenge on Saturday 16 July 2022.
Tallulah is one of the youngest people in the UK to have ever had proton beam therapy, a relatively new form of very targeted radiotherapy. She’ll have 30 rounds of the treatment over 6 and a half weeks, followed by chemotherapy. Her treatment is part of wider, pan-European clinical trial which aims to further refine treatment and improve outcomes for patients with ependymoma.
Tallulah was diagnosed with early-stage cancer in May. Doctors initially thought it was bacterial meningitis but ordered an MRI after some of her symptoms weren’t adding up. A surgeon at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle removed a grape-sized tumour from her brain stem the very next day. The operation went well, and she was referred to The Christie for follow-up treatment to try and make sure her cancer doesn’t return.
“They found the tumour early because one of the junior doctors could see something wasn’t quite right. He went home and did lots of reading, before coming back and suggesting that she had a scan,” comments Zoe. “As a mam, your only wish is for your child to be happy and healthy, and when that turns out not to be the case, it’s heart breaking. Before she had the surgery, the doctors told us that her recovery might be slow and that she might have to relearn things, but our little girl bounced right back, it was quite remarkable. Her resilience is one of the reasons she was accepted onto the trial as normally they only give proton beam therapy to children over 18 months old.
“The team at The Christie is putting us up in a flat for the entire time she’s having her proton beam treatment,” continued Zoe. “It may not be home, but it means we can try and keep Tallulah’s life as normal as possible when she’s not at the hospital. We’re so grateful to the team for everything they’re doing and taking on this zip slide challenge is my way of giving back. I’ve got vertigo, so it’s not going to be easy for me, but I’m doing it for Tallulah and that’s what counts.”
The first course of proton beam therapy in the UK was delivered at The Christie 4 years ago and, alongside the other centre in London, teams there treat patients from across England and the devolved nations. The treatment works by targeting the tumour directly with high-energy protons, resulting in less damage to surrounding healthy tissues than traditional radiotherapy. It’s most often used in cases where the cancer is close to a critical part of the body such as the brain or spine.
“In an ideal world we’d never want to have to treat anyone for cancer, let alone a patient as young as Tallulah, but we know that while she’s here she’ll get the best possible treatment and care,” comments Dr Nicky Thorp, Tallulah’s consultant at The Christie. “The Christie charity provides services above and beyond what the NHS funds and we couldn’t do that without fantastic fundraisers like Tallulah’s mum, Zoe. I wish her all the best for her zip slide challenge.”
There are still places available for The Christie zip slide, as well as other sponsored events.
The Christie charity supports the work of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust providing enhanced services over and above what the NHS funds. This includes money for care and treatment, research, education and extra patient services. Gifts from the public make a huge difference to the care and treatment that The Christie is able to provide to patients and their families.