The father of an eight-year-old girl taken abroad for treatment for a deadly brain tumour today paid tribute after she lost her fight for life.
Scott and Yang Lau, from Woodford Green, spent £250,000 on a pioneering therapy for daughter Kaleigh in Mexico after being told the NHS had run out of options.
They believe it prolonged her life by more than a year, enabling them to enjoy many happy times between treatment while campaigning for more research into childhood brain tumours.
Kaleigh was diagnosed in April 2016 with a rare DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma) tumour after experiencing double vision.
She died on Tuesday last week, June 12. She had fallen into a “deeply unconscious state” in early May and spent her last weeks at Great Ormond Street hospital.
Mr Lau told the Standard: “We were always up against it from the beginning. No other child has survived it. The fact we got to 25 months [from diagnosis] shows she is incredible. She is a fighter.
“We are glad she is in a better place now. She has no more doctors, no more hospitals, no more needles. We couldn’t be prouder parents.”
In April last year Kaleigh became the first European child to receive the treatment, intra-arterial chemotherapy infusion and immunotherapy, at the clinic in Monterrey.
She received 14 treatments over the course of nine trips to Mexico. Normally children live on average nine months after diagnosis.
Her deteriorating health meant the family were forced to abandon plans to return to Mexico for another round of treatment.
A private funeral on Wednesday next week will be followed by a celebration of her life on Saturday June 30.
Mr Lau said: “We want to continue to help other children and help to find a cure.
“If we didn’t go to Mexico, we would not have made the memories we did. We would not have had that hope. Mexico prolonged her life by more than a year.”
Her family’s MP Wes Streeting, who raised Kaleigh’s case in Parliament and with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said: “The best way we can honour Kaleigh’s memory is to make the UK the world leader in research into childhood brain tumours like DIPG so that no child and no family have to go through what Kaleigh and her family have been through.
“Her family have been nothing short of heroic, not only providing all the love and care that Kaleigh could wish for, but also supporting many other families coping with DIPG around the world.”
Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of the Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Throughout their own extraordinarily painful journey, the Laus have done so much in the UK and around the world to raise awareness of the devastation caused by childhood brain tumours, which kill more children than any other form of cancer.
“We must find a way to spare families in the future from this heartbreak. No parent should have to hear that there is no cure for their child.”
* An edited version of this article appears in tonight’s Evening Standard.