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Brave four year old spends day as princess and rides in horse-drawn carriage to celebrate beating cancer

A four-year-old cancer survivor has had all her dreams come true, spending the day as a princess and getting to ride in a horse-drawn carriage to celebrate beating the horrific disease.

Dottie McKernan was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma in December 2017 but after enduring six rounds of chemotherapy so intense that it burnt the inside of her throat, the little girl got to ring the cancer bell last month.

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To celebrate her daughter’s courage, single mum Leanne Foskett, 41, wanted nothing more than to fulfil Dottie’s dreams of being a princess – and The Owen McVeigh Foundation made it happen.

Thanks to the charity, schoolgirl Dottie spent Saturday getting sprinkled with glitter, having her nails painted, hair done and choosing the perfect princess gown at Angels & Scallies party shop in Liverpool, Merseyside.

As well as receiving the royal treatment, Dottie got to meet her favourite princess, Belle, before going on a fairytale horse and carriage ride.

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Mum-of-three Leanne, who has had to watch her youngest miss out on the last nine months of her childhood, couldn’t thank the charity enough for making Dottie smile more than she’d ever seen a child smile.

The warehouse assistant from Widnes, Cheshire, said: “Dottie’s princess day was absolutely amazing. I have never seen a child smile so much.

“I thought she might be dead shy but she wasn’t at all. In the horse and carriage she was waving at everyone like she was royalty. She was the best princess.

“She loved getting dressed up and having her hair and nails done. They sat her down with this glass pretending it was champagne and gave her a foot spa. It was brilliant.

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“If anyone deserves to be pampered, it’s Dottie. She has been through so much and she has taken it all in her stride.

“She never let anything faze her or upset her, she kept smiling throughout. I’m so proud of her. I think it’s that strength in her that got her through it all.

“Dottie has always loved princesses. She loves them all but her favourite is Belle and she got to meet her on Saturday.

“The whole day meant so much to all of us. I can’t thank the charity enough. It is absolutely amazing that they would go out of their way just to put a smile on a little girl’s face.”

Dottie’s aunty Amanda Foskett originally set up a JustGiving page to fund the princess day and buy a doll’s house for her niece.

But when one of the other mum’s on Dottie’s oncology ward at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, spotted the page, she asked Leanne if she could mention it to The Owen McVeigh Foundation.

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The charity, launched by Mark and Joanne McVeigh in memory of their son Owen, aims to give poorly kids happy memories to cherish forever – and they certainly achieved this with Dottie.

The money raised through Dottie’s fundraising page will now be put towards a trip to Disney for the little girl and her siblings Lacee McKernan, 11, and Archie McKernan, eight.

Mark said: “When I got in touch with Leanne and asked if we could help with Dottie’s princess day, I don’t think she could believe it. She seemed shocked.

“When Owen passed away and we set up the foundation, we just wanted to make kids smile who were going through some difficult times.

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“Children like Dottie deserve all the help we can offer. She wanted a princess day and we were able to help so that’s what we did.

“We’ve done princess days before but we’ve never arranged a horse and carriage ride so that was something new and special for Dottie.”

Little princess Dottie first became ill in November last year with what appeared to be a sickness bug but when it didn’t clear up after a few days, mum Leanne started to worry.

Then suddenly in the middle of the night on November 24, Dottie took a dramatic turn for the worst and Leanne rushed her daughter’s ‘lifeless’ body to Alder Hey Hospital.

A blockage was detected in Dottie’s bowel and she was rushed in for an emergency operation where surgeons were forced to cut away 18 inches of the organ.

The worst was yet to come as two weeks later biopsy results revealed Dottie had Burkitt lymphoma – a very fast-growing type of high-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma – and it had spread to her chest.

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Over the next nine months, Dottie endured six gruelling rounds of chemotherapy, around 10 blood transfusions, 12 platelet transfusions and countless hospital stays.

The brave youngster came back fighting and got to ring the bell to signify the end of her treatment at the end of August.

Dottie will have to have MRI scans every 12 weeks for the next five years before she officially gets the all clear but she is back to her playful self – and even started school part-time in September.

Leanne said: “It started out like a sickness bug and I took her to the doctor but they said it would clear up.

“Instead Dottie just kept getting worse and worse. Then one night I went to check on her and she was completely lifeless and all the colour was drained out of her.

“I rushed her to the hospital and they took her straight in for surgery. Dottie had to stay in to recover because she was still so poorly.

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“It was during that time I got the call to say it was cancer and they needed to check to see if it had spread because it’s the fastest growing cancer. It had to three places in her chest.

“I just didn’t believe it at first. And everything after that – all the tests and the treatments – it all happens so quickly that you don’t ever really have any time to process it.

“I had never even heard of Burkitt lymphoma but they explained that it was caused by damage to Dottie’s cells during a viral infection that she’d had a few months before.

“It’s crazy that something so simple could lead to something so serious.

“The next nine months we were in and out of hospital – it felt like we lived there.

“The chemotherapy was so intense that it burnt all round Dottie’s mouth and down her throat and digestive tract.

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“She lost all her hair and her immune system was so destroyed by the treatment that she kept getting infections.

“The chemo even affected the way she walks and the doctors said it might never go back to normal.

“It was awful, it was like living your worst nightmare. Dottie could be on 10-15 drips at a time and seeing her like that was horrible.

“You just try to tell yourself that the doctors are doing what they have to do.

“With the kids at home too I felt like I had to split myself in two. They were really upset by it all and they had to stay with my mum a lot but they’ve coped so well.

“Despite being passed from pillar to post they’ve both done so well in school.

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“When we found out Dottie was going to get to ring the bell it was amazing. She was so happy. She has been fantastic through it all.

“It is so nice for us to all be back at home as a family and to see Dottie getting back to herself and playing and going to school. It’s only part time but it’s incredible that she’s back at all.

“She has missed out on nine months of her childhood fighting this disease and now she can finally get back to living a normal childhood.”

To donate to Dottie’s fundraising page, click here https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/amanda-foskett-2

FACT BOX: WHAT IS BURKITT LYMPHOMA?

• Burkitt lymphoma is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that affects children and adults.

• It develops when the body makes abnormal B-cells – the lymphoma cells. B-cells are white blood cells that fight infection.

• Burkitt lymphoma  may cause a lump in the tummy area, which can cause pain, swelling, nausea and diarrhoea.

• It can also cause painless swellings in the neck, armpit or groin. Other symptoms may include night sweats, high temperatures, weight loss and tiredness.

• To diagnose Burkitt lymphoma, a doctor removes a sample of tissue (biopsy). You will also have tests to find out more about the lymphoma and to help plan your treatment.

• The main treatment is targeted therapy, chemotherapy and steroids. You stay in hospital during your treatment.

• This is because it takes several hours to give the drugs, you have extra treatments to prevent side effects, or you are monitored for side effects which may need to be treated quickly.

(Information from MacMillan)

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