In June 2019, Eilish Flanagan took her daughter, Aoife, to the doctor after the three-year-old started to experience pain in her stomach. She was told the pain was caused by common constipation and it should go away on its own.
Over the next three weeks, Aoife went to the doctor a further 11 times. She was eventually referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital and was diagnosed with germ cell cancer – a rare childhood tumour that usually develops in the ovaries or testes. Just five days later, Aoife passed away.
There was no question for Eilish that she wanted to use what happened to Aoife as a positive driving force for change, and so she set up Aoife’s Bubbles – named after Aoife’s beloved Shetland pony, Bubbles – which will be the UK's only registered childhood germ cell cancer charity.
Helping children with cancer get the best possible treatments, as swiftly as possible
Aoife’s Bubbles is supporting the ICR’s Professor Louis Chesler, leader of our Paediatric Solid Tumour Biology and Therapeutics team. He and his team are developing targeted treatments and detailed genomic testing for children with cancer. It is hoped the use of more targeted drugs will increase survival in children with aggressive solid tumour types, including germ cell tumours.
The money raised by Aoife’s Bubbles will be contributing towards the laboratory equipment and substances needed to carry out this work. Their generous support will allow the team to be flexible in their approach and will enable them to react quickly to any developments in treatment response. They have pledged an incredible £15,000 per year towards this work, and hope to increase this figure as the charity goes from strength to strength.
Professor Chesler says: “We want to improve the outlook for every child diagnosed with cancer. This research will help us match children with the latest targeted drugs, and bring genomic testing into clinical practice for children. We’re delighted that Aoife’s Bubbles have chosen to support this potentially life-changing work. Together, we can help children with cancer get the best possible treatments, as swiftly as possible.”
"Aoife’s presence in this life is one of hope, and I just won't let her light fade."
Eilish said: “Aoife was the kindest little person you could ever wish to meet, and she had such strength and determination that I’m sure her mission was to help others. I set up Aoife’s Bubbles as I’m determined that through this utter heartache, something positive will come. Aoife’s presence in this life is one of hope, and I just won't let her light fade.”
“After Aoife passed away, I spent a lot of time with her while we were waiting for her celebration of life, and I made her a promise that I wouldn’t stop until she was saving lives. Any child facing cancer deserves a chance in life – they deserve the quickest diagnosis, the best treatment options and the best possible outcome."
“Not many people can say they’ve made a huge impact and saved lives, but Aoife will always be known for doing exactly that – and I take complete pride in the fact that this is the legacy Aoife has left and is actually still creating.”