Jo North, 45, mum of melanoma patient Freya, 10

Jo North, 45, mum of melanoma patient Freya, 10

As many patients and families who have had treatment at The Royal Marsden will understand, you have something in your head that you’re most looking forward to doing when it’s finally all over. For my daughter Freya, who has recently completed a year of immunotherapy, it was ringing the bell to mark the end of her treatment. But for me, it was something far simpler: getting back to a normal and quiet life.

I can’t wait for friends to ask what we have been up to so I can say “nothing much”. During the past three years, my husband and I, along with Freya and her two sisters Sadie and Carys, have moved back to the UK from Australia, moved houses and schools several times, started new jobs and dealt with the absolute shock of Freya being diagnosed with melanoma.

Freya had just turned nine when she was diagnosed. When we were given the news, our clinical team at the Oak Centre for Children and Young People said that as it was so rare for someone of her age to get melanoma, they would design her treatment plan with input from the adult oncology team that specialised in the disease.

Very early on, Freya wanted the doctors and nurses to talk directly to her, not just to her parents. The oncologists, plastic surgeons, doctors, nurses and specialists took the time to explain everything to her so well that she wants to be a surgeon or a nurse when she is older.

She is so fond of all the team that she named her chickens after them. We have Villy after her plastic surgeon, Angelini after her consultant and Vicki after one of the nurses. Aside from the excellent treatment Freya has received, we have been so well supported emotionally by all the staff. It’s incredible how a cancer diagnosis can change everything, including the way you live your life.

Before, we were preoccupied with everyday things, racing around and working too hard. Now we have managed to rearrange our work to spend more time with the kids, and we are looking forward to finding ways to enjoy the simple things in life.

Dr Paola Angelini Consultant Paediatric Oncologist

“Freya’s parents had to make many difficult decisions over a short time, based on limited evidence. They wanted to have all the information, and they involved Freya from the start. The adult melanoma team and I worked closely together in every aspect of Freya’s care. Thanks to this, we were able to offer Freya the best possible treatment.”

Freya says:

“When I was diagnosed, I didn’t understand how serious it was until I was told I’d need a whole year of treatment after two operations. Although the treatment has made me feel tired, I don’t mind coming into  the hospital. Mum and I love reading RM magazine and learning about the hospital, and I really like the nurses as they are so kind. I also liked that I could order crisps and juice from the kitchen while having my treatment.”