‘My grandson was diagnosed with cancer‘

When Gyles Brandreth’s grandson, Kitt, now five years old, was diagnosed with aggressive cancer at just 18 months old, his entire family was shocked.

“It was a blow like no other,” recalled Mr Brandreth, 73. “Of course it was a difficult time for little Kitt, although we tried to protect him as much as possible, but it was a terrifying challenge for his parents – my daughter and my son-in-law – as well as his older brother.

“They all understood the gravity of the situation. Knowing that a beloved family member is sick and may not be getting better is a huge burden to bear, especially if it is a child. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare.”

Kitt spent most of the following year in and out of Great Ormond Street Hospital and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital undergoing various treatments to rid him of the cancer.

While at the hospital, Brandreth and his family were introduced to the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity.

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“The whole ordeal has been extremely disruptive, although I cannot thank the hospital staff enough,” said Mr. Brandreth.

“Kitt is a tough little guy, but the constant hospital trips were tough. Either his mother or his father would stay with him in the hospital when an overnight stay was needed. You don’t think of things like that when you hear of children with serious illnesses.

“All your time and energy is focused on wanting the child to get better and making sure they get the best treatment possible, but there are so many other parts of the experience that are incredibly difficult and painful to navigate.

Gyles Brandreth has become an ambassador for the Rainbow Trust after supporting his family when his grandson was diagnosed with cancer (Photo: Jon Buttle Smith Photography)

“With mum or dad in hospital with one child, it means the family is breaking up at a time when they urgently need to be together. During that terrible year, the disruption of our daily lives was insurmountable.

“But once we got to know the Rainbow Trust, things got better. They were there with us every step of the way. They were a lifeline and provided us with reliable support that was invaluable. While the NHS looked after Kitt, Rainbow Trust looked after the rest of us.”

Mr Brandreth and his family were put in touch with one of the Rainbow Trust’s family supporters.

These experts provide help and support at hospital appointments, as well as daily visits and phone calls, where they listen to parents’ concerns and concerns, while also spending time with the kids, whether that’s taking them to the park or just to play at home.

Mr Brandreth said: “Our support person was a real angel. They became an extra member of the family and gave us what we needed most: time. With their help, we had more time to spend as a family, time to breathe and take a break from everything, and time to rest, because no parent sleeps well next to their child’s hospital bed.

The i Christmas Appeal 2021 supports the Rainbow Trust and the amazing work they are doing (Photo: Andy Newbold 2021)

“They were always there, face-to-face or over the phone, to listen to us or give advice, and to make sure Kitt and his brother had time together to do what kids want to do: laugh, go crazy. doing and having fun.”
After a year of treatment, Kitt made it through and it’s next
six this month.

“Every year Christmas is extra special to our family as we get to celebrate Kitt’s birthday,” said Mr. Brandreth.

“We are all so proud of him for being the tough little guy he is. He still goes for checkups every six months, but fingers crossed that he has a bright future ahead of him.”

Now Brandreth has become an ambassador for the Rainbow Trust and is supporting i.

“When I say the Rainbow Trust saved my family, I mean it,” Brandreth says. “We would not be in the position we are in today without their unfailing kindness and support, and I urge everyone to give generously to such an incredible charity. Sure there are many fantastic charities, but the practical and The emotional support that the Rainbow Trust gives us is something I will be eternally grateful for.”

How to donate?

When a child is diagnosed with a life-threatening or serious illness, a family’s life is turned upside down and they often feel confused and overwhelmed.

The i 2021 Christmas Call calls on readers to raise £75,000 to provide 2,885 hours of essential practical and emotional support to families with a life-threatening or terminally ill child.

Here’s what your donation can bring:

£3 or £5 can provide arts and crafts/activities. £10 can get you a memory box. Could pay £15 for a fun day out. £26 would provide an hour of support. £60 would provide a virtual support package. £1,780 would support a family for a year.

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