Childhood Cancers: Research — [David Mundell in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:04 pm on 7th December 2020.

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Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Conservative, Bosworth 5:04 pm, 7th December 2020

We can choose to be affected by the world or we can choose to affect the world. My constituent Isla chose the latter. In August 2017, seven-year-old Isla Tansey woke up unable to walk. After many horrible treatments, surgery and radiotherapy, in January 2018 she was diagnosed with DIPG. Isla’s mother described the terminal illness as the most traumatic and heartbreaking experience for a family ever to go through. Sadly, Isla passed away in July 2018, but not before inspiring thousands around the world with her positivity and creativity through her hobby: painting stones and pebbles.

Isla asked others to join in by painting their own stones, with any design, but she asked them to include the hashtag #islastones and the words “photo, post, re-hide”, and then to send a picture to a dedicated Facebook page for her to see. They were subsequently to leave the stones somewhere hidden, so that when they were found they could spread a little of the joy that Isla’s idea had given them—a little reminder of Isla’s joy. Isla’s mother, Katherine, hoped that a child might one day find one of the stones, learn about Isla’s story and become a researcher in childhood cancer.

Thousands of people took part in more than 149 countries. Although Isla could no longer walk, she loved to see where all the stones ended up and where they would travel to next. Places included the Taj Mahal, New Zealand, Disneyland and America, with a very special stone in Antarctica. Through the stones and the lovely people who made them, hid them and posted their photos, Isla travelled the world.

The hashtag #islastones grew to a Facebook presence with more than 75,000 members from all around the world. In 2019, a year on from Isla’s passing, at the Celebration of Smiles event in Hinckley in my constituency, a world record was set for the largest display of painted stones, with 8,542 stones—all in remembrance of Isla.

To continue her legacy, Isla’s parents, Simon and Katherine Tansey, set up the Islastones Foundation for raising smiles and helping to fight childhood cancer: a reminder of the fun and happiness that Isla brought to so many people’s lives. Isla is now permanently memorialised at Argents Mead in Hinckley, where her legacy of smiles and positivity will live on for ever.

Why does this matter? We have heard the stats in the debate, but these are the real stories behind the cases. Some 650 people in my constituency signed this petition to ask for transparency in the funding, for improvement in treatment options and for pulling together the clinical pathways that people who suffer in this situation have to go through. They ask for real understanding, for listening and for something to change. I am reminded of the quote:

“Your life is your message to the world. Make sure it’s inspiring.”

Isla’s message was truly that, and I hope the Government’s message on DIPG will be the same.