Isla Bishop from Wahroonga has just turned 5, and she has a rare brain cancer. She is one of 21 people in the world ever to have been diagnosed with a Primary Diffuse Leptomeningeal Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumour (PNET). This Friday 22 May is Pirate Day, an annual fundraiser to raise money for medical research to find kinder, more effective treatments and hopefully, a cure for childhood brain cancer so that no child or family need suffer this in future.
Isla has spent most of 2019/20 in The Children’s’ Hospital at Westmead, being looked after by the dedicated nurses and doctors of the Oncology Unit. The treatment of cancers in children can be a long and painful process. Research and funding into cancers and tumours in children can often be overlooked and struggle to receive funding.
Even though she’s been very sick, Isla’s generous spirit has shone through and she decided to raise vital funds for childhood brain cancer research as part of Pirate Day.
Pirate Day: Friday 22 May
Pirate Day is an annual national fundraiser coordinated by The Kids’ Cancer Project and The Pirate Ship Foundation that encourages kids, office workers and whole towns to dress up, donating “treasure” for the privilege.
“Isla had already done her part to help further research into brain cancer by participating on a medical trial and donating her tumour cells to the Westmead Tumour Bank,” says Joanna. “But our family and friends wanted to do more because the statistics around childhood brain cancer are so awful.”
Facts about childhood brain cancer in Australia
- Brain cancer kills more children than any other disease.
- 100 children are diagnosed with brain cancer each year.
- 80% of those diagnosed with high grade tumours will die within 5 years.
- Current treatments only help 50% of kids and leave 90% with lifelong impairments.
- For 30 years brain cancer research has been critically underfunded.
Where are the funds from Pirate Day going?
Funds raised through Pirate Day are going toward a scientific study led by Associate Professor Joshua McCarroll, team Leader in the Tumour Biology and Targeting Program at the Children’s Cancer Institute and the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine, UNSW.
His team are working in the lab using state-of-the-art tiny nanomedicines designed to cross the blood-brain-barrier to selectively penetrate brain tumours and inhibit a gene which plays an important role in regulating chemosensitivity without causing toxicity to non-tumour cells.
“You’ve got some kids at the age of five to ten who may survive the cancer because the treatments are good, but the consequences of those treatments can be terrible,” says Associate Professor McCarroll. “The kids can be left with learning difficulties and hearing difficulties, all sorts of problems that seriously affect their quality of life. That’s a really big challenge we’re trying to face.”
While Isla’s family are making great efforts to put ‘fun’ into fundraising, there is a very serious side to Isla’s current situation and why the family are driven to support science.
“Brain cancer is devastating on so many levels. It has completely changed our lives. The only treatments currently available are extreme and debilitating, which is why we are supporting medical research to find kinder, more effective treatments and hopefully, a cure, so that no child or family need suffer this in future”, says Joanna.
How to help kids with brain cancer, like Isla from Wahroonga
Host a Pirate Day event
Dress up like a pirate, bring your treasure, and raise money for kids’ brain cancer research. Do it at your workplace (or virtually, via Zoom!), childcare centre, pre-school or school! Even if you can’t do it in person this year, get creative about how you can connect with other pirates via Zoom, Skype or Facebook Messenger. Find out more about hosting an event.
Isla’s Mum, Joanna Joyce, says ‘Pirate Day can be celebrated in many different ways – I will be dressing up in my best pirate outfit and celebrating ‘isolation style’ with a work zoom shindig!’.
The official date for Pirate Day is this Friday 22 May, to coincide with Brain Cancer Awareness Month, but organisers encourage everyone to embrace their inner buccaneer to raise awareness and funding for research any day of the year.