A little girl who was unable to walk for 14 months after undergoing gruelling treatment for cancer has now become a Christmas star.
Little Ellie Mae Wile-Dunne was on holiday in Plymouth from her home in Southwater with her family when she was first discovered to have the disease at the age of just four.
Her worried mum Nikki had taken Ellie Mae to see doctors 11 times in a matter of weeks before her great auntie - a doctor’s receptionist - suspected something was seriously wrong.
Ellie Mae was rushed to A&E in Plymouth and was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
“I was thinking it couldn’t be cancer. It couldn’t be right because she was running around on a farm the day before. I couldn’t take it in,” said mum Nikki. “I couldn’t believe it. Then we started thinking about the future. We were 250 miles from home.”
The family was taken to Bristol Children’s Hospital – the nearest principal oncology treatment centre, and it was there that the children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent stepped in, offering the family emotional help and a place to stay.
Now, five long years later, nine-year-old Ellie May is cancer-free - and is starring in a CLIC Sargent Christmas film to raise awareness of the work done with children with cancer.
The charity has teamed up with supermarket chain Morrisons to make the film which shows Ellie Mae and 11 other youngsters singing Jingle Bells - before it becomes clear that all the children have received treatment for cancer.
The children are seen ringing the End of Treatment Bell – which marks the point at which chemotherapy, radiotherapy or other treatment finishes.
Ellie Mae herself got to ring the bell at the Royal Marsden Hospital in February 2016, having gone through years of punishing treatment.
Like many children with leukaemia, Ellie grew weak and stopped being able to walk for 14 months after developing steroid-induced osteopenia caused by intensive doses of chemotherapy.
But determined Ellie Mae battled back. Mum Nikki said: “It was brilliant to see her finally starting to walk again. I started her in dance lessons to help her get her confidence back. She was way behind the other kids in terms of physical ability, but she was focused.”