Mum of teenager Naomi Shaw to complete charity walk on anniversary of daughter's death in aid of Ipswich Hospital
PUBLISHED: 13:00 08 June 2016 | UPDATED: 14:26 08 June 2016
A poignant walk along a beautiful stretch of Britain's coast is being planned to remember a brave Ipswich teenager 10 years after she lost her battle with leukaemia.
Sarah Shaw, the mother of Naomi, will be taking in the Northumberland seascape this weekend and said being by the sea was something the pair both enjoyed.
Naomi, who attended Northgate High School, was born with a rare immune illness called congenital neutropenia which affected her bone marrow and made her more prone to infections.
When she was 15 she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and she died at home in June 2006 at the age of 17, before she was able to complete her A-levels.
On Saturday Dr Shaw, 62, will walk all day to raise money to help other families who are dealing with the trauma and stress of childhood cancer.
“I remember my daughter so vividly but time marches on so I wanted to commemorate her memory,” Dr Shaw added.
“I thought it would be nice to do something that would help other people so then I thought, ‘what helped us most during that time?’ and the thing I have most conviction about is the support from Ipswich Hospital.”
The Paediatric Oncology Shared Care Unit (POSCU) at Ipswich Hospital supported Naomi from her cancer diagnosis to her death, Dr Shaw said, with outreach workers Sarah Smith and Mary Sokanovic making regular visits at home and at school.
“Recognising that the shock of such a grave diagnosis means that the family may be unable to absorb information, the nurses repeated explanations as often as we needed,” said Dr Shaw, who now lives near Newcastle and works as a writer.
Naomi’s journey through treatment
Naomi Shaw featured in the Ipswich Star and East Anglian Daily Times in June 2004 alongside her mother to appeal for more people to register as bone marrow donors.
Because the youngster was of mixed-parentage the chances of her finding a good match were drastically reduced.
The African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust organised a registration clinic in the Ipswich Corn Exchange to find suitable donors, but in the end a match was found in America.
Naomi had a bone marrow transplant in September 2004, and she appeared to be getting better, Dr Shaw said.
However, in August 2005 Naomi was told that her body had rejected the transplant.
She then went through experimental chemotherapy trials at a London hospital as her family looked at alternative ways of finding a cure for her condition. Before Easter 2006, Naomi seemed to be making good progress in her battle and was continuing her studies.
But her condition deteriorated rapidly and in May that year the POSCU team organised for a hospital bed, oxygen machines and painkillers to be provided for Naomi at her home in Ipswich, where she died on June 11, 2006.
“They arranged meetings with Naomi’s school, they gathered her circle of friends together to advise on how important their friendship would continue to be for her wellbeing, and answered questions.
“When Naomi only had a short time remaining, when the specialist treatment centres had nothing to offer and our GP was at a loss, Ipswich Hospital didn’t give up on us. They offered Naomi a choice of staying in hospital, moving to a hospice, or going home. She chose home, where the outreach team carried us through.
“It made all the difference having a couple of familiar, loved visitors to deal with the medical side of things rather than a series of acquaintances or strangers.”
Dr Shaw is supporting the Ipswich Hospital Angel Appeal, which is used to buy toys, gifts and equipment for the POSCU which help young patients cope with and understand their illnesses and treatments.
The fund has also contributed to a user group for patients and their families; paid for staff training; enabled the team to deliver more care in patients’ homes; and helped with travel expenses and out-of-hours care.
Ten years on from Naomi’s death and Dr Shaw said she thought about her daughter every day, and was still inspired by the positivity she displayed during the last months of her life.
“Naomi was a cheerful teenager who enjoyed seeing her friends, dancing, drinking cocktails and shopping,” Dr Shaw added.
“Throughout her life she was sociable and loved company. She had the gift of accepting other people as they are, with all their faults, and yet sincerely loving them. People responded to that and loved her back.”
To support Dr Shaw’s walk, go to: www.justgiving.com/ipswichhospital/donate, click donate, and write in the message box that the donation is for the Angel Appeal in memory of Naomi Shaw.