This brave five-year-old had to learn to walk three times in her short life after being struck by a rare cancer.
Isla Mansfield was diagnosed two years ago after her joints became so painful that she could not climb the stairs.
She had four rounds of intense chemotherapy to rid her body of the cancer that attacks tissues and creates tumors around her body.
Three times – once in 2018 and twice in 2019 – the treatments were so strong that she was too weak to walk for weeks.
Shel needed daily physical therapy to get back on her feet, taking shaky first steps each time while her parents supported her weight until she could walk again.
But the little fighter known as “Isla Smiler” is now getting stronger and doing better than ever.
Rachael Hodgkinson, 39, a mother of four from Buxton, Derbyshire, said, “When you learn your child has cancer, life as you know it changes completely because you never expect it to happen to you.”
“She’s been through so many different treatments, tests, biopsies, and chemotherapy that were horrible for her.
“There were times when we didn’t think she’d even make it.
“But Isla has always been so positive – even when she learned to walk for the third time, she remained determined and was proud when she got a step closer.
“The strength she showed was just incredible.
“Our little Isla Smiler is doing better than ever.”
Rachael and her partner David Mansfield, 35, an electrician, first became concerned about their youngest daughter’s health in 2017 when they were two.
In June 2017, the dead suffered from painful joints, which doctors said were anemia.
Almost a year later, in March 2018, retail assistant Rachael noticed that Isla was looking worse than ever.
She said, “Isla had what I can only describe as a” fatal look “over her.
“I felt like she wouldn’t have woken up the next morning if I had ignored it.”
They rushed to Chesterfield Hospital in Derbyshire, where she had an emergency blood transfusion – but it continued to deteriorate and quickly lost weight.
After she was taken to Sheffield Children’s Hospital, where she went through countless tests until the family was finally told she had cancer in May 2018.
She has a rare cancerous form of Langerhans cell hystiocytosis (LCH) that affects the liver, spleen, intestines, skin, blood, and bones.
The condition causes excess immune system cells to build up in the body, which damages tissues and causes tumors.
Rachael said, “When you tell your child they have cancer, you are immersed in a whole new world and life is no longer what you used to be.
“We definitely weren’t expecting cancer – but we were relieved that we finally knew what was going on with Isla so that she could be treated.”
She spent the next two years in and out of the hospital on several large rounds of chemotherapy, and her treatments stopped her walking three times – in September 2018, May 2019, and December 2019.
Each time, Isla had to build her strength with tough daily physical therapy sessions and exercises that she did with the help of 10 year old sister Olivia.
Rachael said Isla’s firmness and determination kept the whole family going.
She said, “It was so difficult for her, but once she thinks about something, she surprises us all.
“Every time Isla took a step, she was so proud of herself and gave us the biggest smile.
“That’s how she got the nickname” Isla Smiler “- even in the most difficult moments you could always get a smile from her.”
The final round of intense chemotherapy was successful in controlling the condition and Isla got home just in time to spend Christmas with the family while she recovered.
She began an 18-month course of bi-monthly maintenance chemotherapy in January and started school part-time in September.
Rachael, who also has older sons Lewis, 20, and Ryan, 16, said: “There were times when we didn’t think Isla would survive, but everyone is more hopeful now because she’s been doing so well lately goes.
“We just have to hope and pray that it stays that way because we’ve seen how unpredictable the disease can be – but the strength it has shown has been incredible and it’s amazing how far it has come.”
“It would not have been possible without the fantastic team at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, who did everything for us despite Isla’s complex case.
“I can’t praise her enough.”
The Children’s Hospital’s charity is now raising funds to renovate the cancer and leukemia ward where doctors saved Isla’s life. Click here to find out more.