Meet The Allens
The Allens’ journey to the Big Apple was a whirlwind to say the least—for 2-year-old Isla, it was a battle against the odds.
In the final days of the Allen family’s four-week trip to NYC, mom Anna remarks that she’s looking forward to “just having everybody together in one place. Everyone in the same house. Normality. That’s what people take for granted.”
According to their father Rick, Isla and her twin sister, Lottie, were a bit of a surprise. After having their first child, Finn, they weren’t expecting a girl, let alone twins.
Nine months after bringing the girls home, Rick and Anna began to notice that Isla wasn’t as active as her sister. It took several doctor visits, a misdiagnosis of mumps due to swelling in her face and finally a series of scans to discover that the swelling was actually a tumor. Rather than celebrating the girls’ first birthday with family and friends, Rick and Anna prepared to move Isla onto the oncology ward of Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. Shortly after, Isla was diagnosed with stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma.
What followed was a year of stem cell transplants, chemotherapy, surgery, another round of high-dose chemo, radiotherapy and immunotherapy.
Her siblings understood that Isla was sick but understandably couldn’t comprehend the severity. “There were times they couldn’t see Isla, because she was too ill or my parents couldn’t bring them to the hospital,” says Anna. Lottie was heartbroken and Finn had questions.
But after a grueling treatment plan, Isla was finally able to ring her end-of-treatment bell. “She’s like Superwoman. She’s an inspiration to so many. She’s gone through so much at such a young age, but she’s still so feisty.”
The prospect of a relapse is extremely real for Isla, and relapsed neuroblastoma has a less than 1 in 10 chance of survival. With the help of friends and family and the Solving Kids’ Cancer charity in the UK, the Allens raised enough money to enroll Isla in an immunotherapy clinical trial in New York that they hope will help prevent her cancer from returning.
Traveling with one toddler is daunting enough, traveling with three is a whole different ballgame. St. George’s Society arranged to have the family greeted at the airport and transported directly to their hotel—double-stroller, car seats and all. We also accompanied the family to their first hospital consultation, arranged activities during their stay and had many Frozen sing-alongs in the St. George’s office. Since the Allens would miss Easter back home, the Society organized a Sunday roast at a local English pub for the whole family.
“When you met us in the morning to go to the hospital the first time, it was nice having someone to walk with us and explain how to navigate the city. It’s those simple things that are extremely helpful,” said Rick.
With another four rounds of treatment planned over the next year, the Allens look forward to returning to New York, and as for the Society: