It may finally be a happy Christmas for a brave toddler recovering from a rare combination of cancers after pioneering stem cell treatment.
Amelia Topa, who celebrated her second birthday yesterday, is looking forward to spending the festive period with her family at home in Turriff.
Her parents Kerri Paton, 23, and Igor Topa, 24, were told that raised purple spots across Amelia’s body could be a sign of something seriously wrong when she was born at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin.
Amelia was soon after diagnosed with a mix of two types of leukemia – acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and acute myeloid leukaemia and spent Christmas in hospital.
Miss Paton said: “It’s rare enough to be born with leukaemia but to be born with a mix of two kinds is almost unheard of.”
Doctors gave Amelia a bone marrow transplant using stem cells donated by a man aged between 16 and 30.
The treatment worked and, by the following autumn, she was home and awaiting the arrival of her baby brother.
But tragedy struck when Amelia’s grandmother, Angela McNabb, died suddenly from heart failure aged 48 – the day before Amelia’s birthday.
Miss Paton said: “My mum was my best friend, she was everything to me.
“Mum absolutely loved Amelia and was so close to her.
“My major source of support was gone and I hadn’t even had the chance to say goodbye. I couldn’t believe it. It was so unfair. Last Christmas was heartbreaking.”
Things went from bad to worse for the family in February, when tests showed that Amelia’s cancer had returned.
After intense chemotherapy she was given a second transplant using stem cells from umbilical cord blood flown specially from America at the end of June.
That procedure was a success and the toddler has entered remission.
Having spent Christmas in 2017 in hospital, and in mourning last year, Amelia’s parents are now looking forward to a happy festive season.
Miss Paton said: “Amelia soared through the transplant and she’s doing really well now, I couldn’t be prouder.
“I hope Amelia’s story will help other families going through cancer – there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Amelia has now been selected to receive the first Cancer Research UK “children and young people star award” in recognition of the courage she showed since being diagnosed.
The award, supported by TK Maxx, is open to all people under 18s who currently have cancer or who have been treated in the last five years – with every child being awarded a trophy, TK Maxx gift card, t-shirt and certificate signed by the likes of Nanny McPhee star Dame Emma Thompson.
Spokeswoman for the charity, Lisa Adams, said: “We know that a cancer diagnosis is devastating at any age, but that it can be particularly difficult for a child or young person and their families.
“That’s why we’re calling on families across Scotland to nominate inspirational youngsters for an award so that we can recognise their incredible courage.”
Nominations can be made online at cruk.org/childrenandyoungpeople