Family devastated at Skye’s bleak diagnosis

Sixteen-month-old Skye Sutcliffe, whose rare blood cancer has returned and is now incurable
Sixteen-month-old Skye Sutcliffe, whose rare blood cancer has returned and is now incurable
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A FAMILY have spoken of their devastation at the news their daughter’s rare blood cancer
has returned – and is now incurable.

Brave 16-month-old Skye Sutcliffe, of Middleton, Leeds, has been battling an extremely rare combination of acute lymphoblastic and myeloid leukaemia since she was 20 weeks old.

Hopes were high in August last year after her three-year-old brother Harvey donated bone marrow to Skye for what doctors considered was her best chance of survival.

Both youngsters recovered well from the operation and initial thoughts on Skye’s condition were positive.

However, the family have now been told by medics that both types of leukaemia have returned.

Mother Amie Mills said: “It’s hard because we can only help her the best we can but she can’t communicate to us what’s hurting or how to help and that’s difficult for us.

“Skye’s crackers, funny and independent and nothing fazes her.

“This is everyday life for us now and it’s just something we get on with because you have to. I just hope that when Harvey is old enough to understand exactly what he did for Skye – that even though it didn’t work, he’s still happy and proud he donated his bone marrow for her.”

With no treatment for a cure, Skye is now under palliative care, but the inspirational girl is still fighting. Skye was only four months old when she became ill.

After developing a rash, doctors suspected meningitis. But after tests, they gave her parents the news that it was acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Her grandmother Amelia Sockett has organised a three-mile ‘Run for Skye’ at Middleton Park on February 14 at 11am in aid of Candlelighters and Delete Blood Cancer UK. For tickets visit: www.runleeds.co.uk/skye.

Gill Barker

From reaching the summit of Mount Everest to cycling thousands of miles across America, there’s no end to the lengths people will go to for a cause close to their heart. Breaking boundaries and taking on gruelling endeavours can mean the person taking part enjoys the experience of a lifetime while the charity benefits from generous sponsorship. But taking time off work and organising an extreme, and often costly, adventure just isn’t possible for everyone. That’s why Gill Barker, from Wakefield, has created her own twist on the trend to find the toughest, most epic charity challenge. Gill is set to turn 35 in 2020 – and reaching this milestone has inspired her to have a good think about what she’d like to achieve, both physically and mentally, and write a bucket list to help reach those goals. Gill will complete 35 challenges before her 35th birthday on Saturday March 14. Some are small, some are huge, but all of them will push her beyond her comfort zone. “Turning 33 felt like a big thing for me,” explains Gill, who works in marketing at Leeds Trinity University. “I started to think about the life decisions I’d made. I looked back and while I’d had fun, I regretted all those weekends where I could have been having more fulfilling experiences and creating memories. “I have a full-time job so I couldn’t do a massive overseas challenge, but I realised I could break it down into little bits and still raise as much money as possible for charity.” Gill has already ticked 11 challenges off her list. She’s faced her fear of heights at the outdoor adventure centre Go Ape, trained with the Leeds Rhinos, cycled 128 miles from coast to coast and climbed Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. Other challenges have involved changing her diet to ensure she’s getting all the nutrients she needs, and going to the gym more regularly on her own – something that would previously have caused Gill a considerable amount of anxiety. During the festive season, Gill kept active by completing a ‘12 days of Christmas’ workout challenge. Gill is now taking part in RED January, a campaign run in partnership with Mind that encourages participants to beat the winter blues by being active every day throughout the month. Then, later this month she’ll be taking to the slopes at Xscape Yorkshire to try her hand at skiing for the first time. Gill’s biggest test of her ‘35 before 35’ mission so far will be taking part in a 24-hour run in March. The run will be completed on a 3.71-mile loop so not only will it be physically demanding, it will also play on her mental toughness. She will also be finishing the year in style by taking part in the Honolulu Marathon in Hawaii in December. There are three conditions that all of Gill’s challenges must meet – they must be physical or stretch her mentally, they all need to be self-funded and they can’t affect her job. Driving Gill’s ambition is a passion to help two local charities that have personal meaning to her – Yorkshire Cancer Research and Leeds Mind. She’s already raised more than £500 for the two causes. “Like many families across the UK, my own family has a history of cancer,” explains Gill. “But people close to me have recently been affected by cancer, too. They’ve all been so strong and inspirational. I wanted to do something that would support them. “I chose to raise money for Yorkshire Cancer Research after reading that people living here are more likely to get cancer, and more likely to die from it, than people living in other areas of the country. The statistics really shocked me.” Gill chose Leeds Mind following her own struggles with mental health. Her ‘35 before 35’ challenge has helped her overcome a period of depression. “It’s given me something to focus on,” Gill says. “Many people are affected by depression, even those who continue to work and function in everyday life. It’s very easy to fall into that slump and stop doing the things you used to enjoy. “I’m feeling much fitter and healthier, but I’m also happier and more confident now that I have a new focus. “If I can encourage one person who may be going through a difficult period to be brave and do something they’ve never done before, face a fear or take on a new challenge in order to gain a new focus, then that would be brilliant. If I can do it, anyone can.” You can find out more about Gill Barker’s challenges and sponsor her by visiting www.35before35.co.uk. You can also follow her progress on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She is also looking for suggestions for challenges to complete the 35 as she is still a few short on her list. For further information on Yorkshire Cancer Research, visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.u