Family of first patient on former Sheffield Children's Hospital cancer ward to mark what would have been her 30th birthday with fundraising walk

Family members of the first patient on the old cancer ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital are walking 30 miles in her memory to raise funds. Grace Hammond reports.

Four-year-old Alexandra Latham was the first ever patient on the old cancer and leukaemia ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, when it opened in 1997.

In May that year, she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer that affects around 100 children in the UK each year.

She had an operation that October to remove the tumour, as well as one of her kidneys and her spleen.

Alexandra Latham’s family are raising money for what would have been her 30th birthday.

But just a few days before Christmas, her family were told cancer had returned, and Alex died at home on December 30.

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Her mum, Gabrielle explains: “This year, our beautiful Alex should be celebrating her 30th birthday. She is loved, and missed, every day. Alex was funny, bright and very lively with gorgeous red curls. She loved to dance and was our first born.

“As well as being a great sister to her siblings Sara and James, she would have loved her little brother Jack who came along in 1999.

“When it was James’ first birthday in 1997, Alex was in hospital for chemotherapy. His auntie brought him onto the ward and the nurses got him a cake so we could sing happy birthday on the ward. I was very touched.

“Myself, along with my husband Mike and our sons James and Jack, are going to be walking 30 miles when it is her birthday.”

The family will be completing the walk on August 3 and 4, the 30-mile route taking them from Whitby up to Redcar and stopping at Staithes along the way.

Gabrielle continues: “We are covering the distance over two days but it will still be a challenge, especially for me.

“We are looking forward to it, it’ll be good spending time together and we have special memories of the east coast when Alex was in treatment.”

The family took part in The Children’s Hospital Charity’s Chatsworth Walk earlier this month as part of their training.

Gabrielle says: “Mike, Jack and I really enjoyed the Chatsworth Walk, it was great. I love Chatsworth and it was so interesting walking through the park.”

Last summer, Gabrielle set herself a challenge to walk 60 miles for her 60th birthday and raise £600 for The Children’s Hospital Charity, with the fundraising dedicated towards a new cancer and leukaemia ward.

The new ward is designed to have improved spaces for parents to stay with their children and a dedicated playroom and schoolroom at the heart of the ward.

More patient bedrooms have en-suite facilities as well as a view of the park opposite the hospital.

Gabrielle’s challenge raised more than twice her target – £1,444 – for Sheffield Children’s Hospital. She has now raised over £400 for the 30-mile walk.

She says: “I am very grateful to everyone who has donated for Alex’s walk.

Lucy Cain, community fundraising officer at The Children’s Hospital Charity offered thanks to Gabrielle and her family.

“The fundraising last year helped redevelop the cancer and leukaemia ward, which opened to patients in December and this challenge will continue to help our hospital where it is needed most. On behalf of everyone at Sheffield Children’s, thank you.”

To donate, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/30milesforalex