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Isla Caton’s dad to drive to Africa to raise money for cancer research

Isla Caton with her parents Michael Hook and Nicola Caton 

Isla Caton’s father is going to drive from Hornchurch to Africa and back again to raise money for children’s cancer research.

Michael Hook’s seven-year-old daughter Isla died in January 2022 following a five-year battle with neuroblastoma.

He told Time 107.5FM, the period after her death was “terrible” and he often sat at home crying.

“After about six months I realised this was not what my daughter would want,” he said. “She would want her dad to be proud and I would like her to be proud of me.

“I’m in a much better place now and I’m determined to make my daughter proud of her dad. I want to show the world what I’m capable of.”

Michael with his daughter Isla

Michael will be driving more than 4,500 miles to Morocco and back in a 58-plate yellow Saab between Thursday, 22 December and Friday, 6 January.

He is going to travel through France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland before heading back to France and onto Spain where he will catch a ferry to Africa.

During the trip he will take some of Isla’s favourite toys to the top of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Spain.

“I’ve got a toy teabag that Isla used to play with quite a lot, that comes with me everywhere in my pocket anyway, but specifically I want to take a couple of Isla’s favourite toys with me so that I can take some photos of them on the journey,” added Michael.

“My yellow car is going to be liveried up to the maximum with pictures of Isla on it.”

Michael will visit the SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital where Isla spent more than two years receiving treatment

The 52-year-old is funding the entire trip by himself and all of the money raised will go to the Isla Caton Fund which helps pay for neuroblastoma research in the UK.

Michael said that it is still very difficult for children to get the treatment they need in this country. He and his wife Nicola were forced to take Isla to Barcelona after they ran out of options here.

“We personally were put in a situation where we had to raise £1 million to buy another couple of years of life with our daughter because we were told by Great Ormond Street Hospital that there was no further treatment available because the treatment had not been proven to be cost effective and had not been approved by NICE,” he explained.

“The statistics are crazy. I think there’s about two drugs that have been approved for  childhood cancer in the last 25 years. My daughter was actually getting chemotherapy that was developed in the 1960s.

“Unfortunately, the situation hasn’t changed. There’s still 500 families a year that get diagnosed with neuroblastoma and there is very little help in this country.”

Isla was a massive West Ham fan

Isla was constantly receiving treatment, including brain surgery and radiotherapy, during her five-year battle with neuroblastoma.

Michael estimates that she was given anaesthetic between 200 and 300 times and said she eventually started administering it to herself because she had grown so used to it.

“There was a treatment in Southampton where they locked Isla in a lead-lined room and irradiated her,” he added. “She was so radioactive that we weren’t allowed in the same room as her.

“For a week we could not go in the room because her radiation levels were so dangerous that it could affect us in the future.

“My wife put herself at risk because she was the one who went in for every scan with Isla and held her hand.”

Michael said there are many children who have to go through similar experiences. He wants to raise £100,000 to pay for research into better forms of treatment.

He said: “Our last five years have been horrific. The only thing that brightened up those years was the fact that Isla got to live a reasonably normal life for the last couple of years.

“We had her home as much as we could and we played with her every minute of every day that she was alive.”

Anyone who would like to support Michael by making a donation can do so online here.

You can also follow Michael on Facebook here.

For more on this story, and the latest on our other local and national news, listen to Time 107.5FM

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