While it has been a challenging start to the year for many, this season has been a time of hope for young Ellie Humphries and her family, after latest scan results show the three-year-old’s cancer is now stable.

Brave Ellie, from Bromham, Wiltshire, is the face of Julia’s House 2020 Christmas Appeal.

She was just six months old when doctors discovered a large brain tumour.

Left for just a few more days, Ellie’s tumour would have been inoperable. She survived the 14 hour surgery, but suffered a stroke which left her partially sighted and with no movement down her right side.

“She was this tiny bundle with a bandaged head lying in my arms and were told we should just enjoy the time we had left with her,” recalled mum Jenna. “She had started chemotherapy but there was only a slim chance it would work.”

In the months that followed, Ellie was in and out of hospital for an operation needed to relieve pressure on her brain and further operations and chemotherapy treatment.

While Ellie’s latest results show that her condition is stable, she is still vulnerable and will continue to have brain scans every three months.

“Every time we’re scared that something will show up – we call it ‘scanxiety’,” says Jenna. “It has been an emotionally exhausting journey, a bittersweet cycle of hope and despair, and we are just so thankful Julia’s House has been by our side.”

Since launching their Christmas appeal in November, the children’s hospices charity has been overwhelmed by the response to Ellie’s story from the Wiltshire community. Around £70,000 has already been raised, exceeding the charity’s initial target of £50,000 – with more than a month to go before the appeal ends.

Ellie’s Julia’s House nurse Molly Douglas said: “Ellie has a smile that could light up even the darkest of Januarys – she’s such an inspirational little girl. It was just the best news to hear about her scan results as we know how stressful this is for the family. She is a little fighter and continues to fight every day, and we feel lucky to be part of her journey."

“We’re so grateful to everyone that has read Ellie’s story and donated or fundraised for our Christmas Appeal – thank you:” added Mike Bartlett, Deputy CEO at Julia’s House. “It couldn’t be a more critical time for us in terms of fundraising, particularly for our Wiltshire hospice as we rely entirely on public funding.

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"The money the local community has raised could help to pay for two nurses to care for children with life-limiting conditions just like Ellie – it makes all the difference to families in need, particularly as we are now back in lockdown and their isolation continues.”

Home care sessions from Julia’s House nurses have meant that, throughout treatment, Ellie's parents Jenna and Luke have been able to spend quality time with their son Tom, knowing that Ellie would be safe and cared for while they played with him.

The care and support given to the Humphries family and others like them, is only possible thanks to the generosity of the public.

Under normal circumstances Julia’s House receives no government funding in Wiltshire, and relies on fundraising, donations and Gifts in Wills to run its vital service. During 2020 the charity was forced to cancel many of its major fundraising events. Its chain of high street shops is once again closed for the lockdown period, causing another huge financial blow for the charity.

As the restrictions due to COVID-19 continue, Julia’s House anticipates another challenging year ahead. Mike adds: “We lose £150,000 a month with our shops closed, so starting the year in lockdown has a huge impact on us financially.

The continued support of the local community will be vital to maintaining our life-changing care and support for vulnerable children and families, keeping them safe and well at home to reduce the strain on local NHS services.”

To donate to this year’s Julia’s House Christmas appeal visit www.juliashouse.org/Ellie or call the Donations Team on 01202 644220.