Two weeks today as normal people get the ferry to Bestival, the summer’s last big festival, on the Isle of Wight, I’ll be dipping my toes into the Solent, wondering why I ever thought it was a good idea to swim there.
September 8 will also be an important date for Ashley Hyde’s family.
Ashley, 7, was a happy young boy whose love of Star Wars and big smile made him a great character to cover when we ran his story in Chat magazine when I worked there.
On June 9, 2008 Ashley was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroblastoma. Ashley battled through months of treatment, endless rounds of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, a complex operation and endless procedures.
Throughout Ashley’s gruelling battle with cancer, the Hyde family kept his spirits up, doing lots of fun things with him like training as a Jedi Knight.
‘May the Force be with you,’ Ashley’s parents would reassure their little Jedi Knight. And it seemed it was. In July 2009, Ashley was in remission.
Ashley described himself as a young Padawan Jedi in training for battle. But sadly the battle was just too big for such a little warrior.
After just six months, in December 2009, Ashley relapsed. Ashley’s family and friends constantly fundraised to send him abroad for treatments not available here. But the disease was too advanced and too aggressive, and despite all the treatments they tried, on September 8, last year, Ashley finally lost his last battle.
Ashley had touched hundreds of people with his unique personality, staying in touch with many schoolfriends with Skype, whatever gruelling treatments he was having. And hundreds of people, including four Star Wars storm troopers turned out to pay their respects to him last September.
Ashley’s family continue to honour him by fundraising in his name to help other children in his situation. Neuroblastoma takes more children in the UK than any other cancer. It can be treatable, and as I write this, there’s many urgent appeals. Families Against Neuroblastoma help families like Ashley’s get urgent treatment. Often abroad and often expensive, and campaign for all the treatments to be available for everyone here too.
FAN is run by ordinary parents, like Ashley’s, who have gone to extraordinary lengths to help these kids. I’ve always been touched by their enthusiasm.
One year on, this September 8, as Ashley’s family remember him, I’ll be thinking of him too as I set off on my fundraising ferry-dodging swim across the Solent.
Ashley, may the force be with you!
And if you’d like to help Families Against Neuroblastoma battle our most deadly childhood cancer, please take a minute to sponsor this swim: http://www.bmycharity.com/swim2bestival4FAN