West Norwood girl, 3, dies in her parents’ arms after brave battle with leukaemia – MyLondon

An inspirational young girl from South London who bravely battled leukaemia for 18 months has died.

Esme Handley, 3, was diagnosed with high risk acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) while on holiday in Greece in June 2018.

The courageous toddler, who lived in West Norwood with her parents Will and Rebecca, underwent extensive treatment after more than 400,000 was raised through donations.

But Esme's condition deteriorated in recent months and she died in her parents' arms on New Year's Day.

Writing on her Facebook page , called Esme Lion Heart, Will and Rebecca said: "If you look to the sky tonight you will see a star shining brighter than any other.

"Our darling girl went onwards with her journey at midday [on January 1]. She was peaceful and in our arms and knew how ridiculously adored she was."

Esme was just 22 months old when her parents were given the heartbreaking news that she had leukaemia.

They became concerned with some bruising on her body after a fall, and after being told the news by doctors spent the second night of the holiday "in tears".

Esme's blood tests were examined at a regional hospital, which led to the diagnosis.

On what would have been the third day of the holiday, the family flew back to London and went straight to King's College Hospital, where doctors confirmed Esme had AML.

Esme, who loved lions, narwhals and playing hide and seek outside, was then transferred to the Royal Marsden, where she spent five months as an in-patient. In September 2018 she received a stem cell transplant, after three rounds of intense chemotherapy.

In November 2018, Esme was told she could go home, to the delight of her family. But in April last year, after six months ofrecovering, the family were told the leukaemia had returned.

In November, Will and Rebecca were told Esme only had a matter of weeks to live after being told the leukaemia was "out of control".

The family spent the last weeks of Esme's life at the Royal Marsden.

Before Esme died and in a bid to fund a second stem cell transplant which was not eligible on the NHS, the family set up a gofundme page to fund the 500,000 needed for the private treatment.

The page has raised 428,000 from over 10,000 donations, and was the biggest appeal created in 2019 in the UK, according to gofundme.

Will and Rebecca are now determined to build a lasting legacy foundation in Esme's name and say any unspent money will be donated to The Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group.

"Given how desperately poor the funding is into paediatric AML research, we feel even more strongly about this now," Esme's parents said.

"So a large chunk of the cash we have remaining (after spending some on novel drugs and supportive care) will be donated to AML research to try and spare future families the pain and anguish we have experienced.

"Our darling little girl, however, was SO, SO much more than cancer and we owe it to her to ensure she isnt forgotten.

"Therefore, we are going to increase our fundraising target so in time we can create some kind of legacy foundation in Esme's name. If our story has touched you, please help us to achieve this by donating or simply sharing far and wide."

Although Esme spent Christmas in hospital, she was still treated to a number of special trips.

Having been bed-ridden for nearly three months, she was taken out of her room in her pushchair and visited the Christmas trees around the hospital, taking baubles for her own tree.

Esme saw the Christmas lights in Morden and was treated to a private screening of Frozen 2 at Everyman Esher, complete with Elsa and Anna impersonators who sang to Esme.

The family also had puppet theatre performers, therapy dogs and ZooLabs collection of creepy crawlies and rodents visit Esme's room.

Will and Rebecca have understandably been left heartbroken by their only daughters death.

"We gave up everything to get Esme through this," said Will.

"Childhood cancer has quite literally become our entire life - we know nothing else.

"Weve lived in total isolation, not really going anywhere or seeing anyone since June 2018 - so the thought of the future, let alone a future without Esme, feels very uncertain, very lonely and very bleak."

To visit the gofundme page go to http://www.gofundme.com/help-2-year-old-esme-cure-her-leukaemia .

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West Norwood girl, 3, dies in her parents' arms after brave battle with leukaemia - MyLondon

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