Family raising £250,000 for treatment for ‘pony-mad’ young girl with cancer

  • The family of a “pony-mad” girl diagnosed with cancer days before her fourth birthday is trying to raise £250,000 for her to have a vaccine in the United States that could increase her chance of survival.

    Essex-based Florentina Burton was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive childhood cancer, on 21 May, five days before her fourth birthday. Florentina is undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy treatment, and at the end of August will have a seven-hour surgical procedure to begin to remove a tumour by her kidney.

    Florentina’s cousin Abbie Gibson told H&H the family is trying to raise £250,000 for a vaccine that is only available in the US. Patients with high-risk neuroblastoma have a 50-60% of long-term survival and the cancer carries a high risk of relapse. Should a relapse occur, the survival rate decreases to five percent. The vaccine is designed to increase the survival rate.

    “It’s so hard to describe everyone’s emotions. Florentina’s mum Amelia is due to give birth around the time her surgeries start. Florentina is coping amazingly well, she is starting her seventh round of chemotherapy and often needs blood transfusions,” said Abbie.

    “To start with she had to stay in Great Ormond Street Hospital but now she is allowed home between chemotherapy rounds. She has to have an injection every day for her immune system, which she gets from a nurse during the week, but at the weekend they have to travel to the hospital to have it.”

    Abbie, who lives in Leicester, described Florentina as a “pony-mad” girl who loves riding her two Shetlands Hocus Pocus and Hustler.

    “Before she became ill she always loved being outdoors and was very strong and sassy,” she said. “But now obviously she’s very weak and this has knocked her confidence in herself.

    “She’s been on her ponies once since her diagnosis but they have to be very careful, there are lots of rules while she’s undergoing treatment such as she can’t be in direct sunlight. We visit as much as we can to help with whatever they need and we get to see Florentina when she’s well enough, but once she starts her surgery we won’t be allowed to see her.”

    Florentina comes from a horsey family. Her father Kevin and Amelia both formerly played horseball, and own horses. Abbie plays horseball with her mare Bonnie Bridge for the North London Horseball Club, which is holding a showjumping fundraiser on 8 August – organised by Sophia Richmond – at Arkley Lane Stables, Barnet, North London. The event is open to all and will include unaffiliated showjumping classes, a chase-me-Charlie, raffle and barbecue.

    A separate family fun-day fundraiser is also taking place on 31 July at Rotherby Lane, Frisby on the Wreake, Leicestershire, which will include horseball, family games and a barbecue.

    “Amelia and Kevin have been overwhelmed by the support, they are so grateful. As a family we’re very close, you do anything when it’s your family,” said Abbie.

    “Any little helps; if people can donate then great, but sharing the fundraisers and JustGiving page also help. People have also donated raffle prizes. The British Horseball Association has been posting about Florentina and sharing fundraisers, as have some of the other horseball associations. The support is incredible.”

    To date £49,778 has been raised on Florentina’s JustGiving page from 1,149 supporters. More information about Florentina and the various fundraising activities can be found at www.florentinasfootsteps.com or via the Florentina’s Footsteps Facebook and Instagram pages. Donations can be made at the JustGiving page.

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