Derry teenager who lost sight to cancer urges public to help other young patients

A schoolgirl from Londonderry has attended a red carpet event to celebrate the courage of children with cancer.

rooke McClafferty, 13, was just seven weeks old when she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer that stole her sight.

Though much of her childhood was overshadowed by the disease, the inspiring teen devotes her free time to raising funds for research.

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HARD START: Brooke was diagnosed with cancer when she was just seven weeks old

HARD START: Brooke was diagnosed with cancer when she was just seven weeks old

The Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast is one of several centers in the UK participating in groundbreaking clinical trials coordinated by the Children’s Cancer Trials Team at Cancer Research UK.

These trials make innovative new treatments available to children battling the condition.

During the pandemic and lockdowns, Brooke has set up a wax melting company, Brooke Rose Aromas, which has raised £5,000 for Cancer Research UK.

She was thrilled to help launch this year’s Cancer Research UK Children and Young People Star Awards, in partnership with TK Maxx.

Brooke, who received the award in 2019, was one of 15 children invited to take to the red carpet for a unique virtual show calling for nominations, which can be seen on YouTube.

Sunday Life is also delighted to once again partner with Cancer Research UK to help launch the awards, which recognize each nominated child, in Northern Ireland.

For Brooke, whose young life has been marked by years of aggressive treatment and surgery, winning a Star Award was a huge boost.

To celebrate, she attended a star-studded Christmas party in London, hosted by Cancer Research UK.

This gave her the idea to do something to raise money for charity.

Her mother Elaine explained: “Brooke loved the Star Awards party in London so much that she came home and wanted to support cancer research in the UK.

“She set up a lemonade stand at events in Derry and raised £1,000.

“Then Covid came and she couldn’t sell lemonade, so we came up with the idea of ​​making wax melts.

“Everyone was home because of the lockdown and we thought this would be something fun for them to burn in the house.

“So she set up an Instagram page and the Facebook page and she takes orders every week.

“At the beginning of the summer, she was able to hand over £5,000 to Cancer Research UK, which will be used to help other children. “

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Brooke McClafferty with her star award

Brooke McClafferty with her star award

Brooke has spent much of her life in the hospital. Being diagnosed with retinoblastoma when she was just seven weeks old was the start of a long and traumatic journey for her and the rest of the McClafferty family – father Seamus, sister Jade (26) and brother Cianan (20).

Brooke started chemotherapy in Belfast, but it didn’t work.

She then received laser treatment for her eyes, which required her to travel to Dublin every two weeks for three years.

When she was three, the unthinkable happened and she had to have her right eye removed.

Her mother Elaine said: “There was a risk that the tumors could spread to the back of her brain.

“You just collapse inside, but we knew it had to happen, so she had surgery when she wasn’t even three years old.

“It was horrible, completely horrible and actually it’s something we couldn’t even talk about for years.

“She also had to undergo a second round of chemotherapy, which was much heavier than the first.

Brooke was so sick and she lost all her hair. She also had to be tube fed and every night we had to make sure the tube was in the right position and not in her lungs. You had that extra stress.

“Her small intestines were badly damaged by the chemotherapy and her left eye was badly damaged by the laser treatment.

“She is actually registered blind because she only has her peripheral vision.

“The joints in her ankles were affected, so she couldn’t run like other kids would. She still gets pain when walking. When we go out for a day, she needs a wheelchair.

“Brooke has been so strong through it all and that has given us the strength to get through it. She’s just amazing and just keeps going.”

The student of St Cecilia’s College is a talented artist and has the ambition to become an illustrator.

In recognition of her charitable work, she was awarded the Young Volunteer of the Year award for cancer research in the UK and Northern Ireland.

The organization also invited her and other young cancer patients to hit the red carpet to launch this year’s Star Awards.

The footage is part of a wider video filmed to highlight the impact of cancer on young lives and to encourage more nominations for the awards.

The touching film sees recipients give heartwarming thank yous, show off their stuff on the red carpet and break out their best dance moves.

Elaine said: “Cancer Research sent Brooke a red carpet, tripod and camera. She really enjoyed making the video.

“She just wants to help someone else, especially other little ones who are going through what she’s been through.

“We are all planning to do Race for Life as a family this year and we hope to add another £5,000 to what Brooke has already raised.”

The video also features celebrities including Emma Thompson, TV personality Dr Ranj Singh, CBBC presenter Joe Tasker and Northern Ireland social media influencer Olivia Neill.

Olivia told Sunday Life: “It is disturbing to think that thousands of young people in the UK face cancer every day.

“I have been humbled to hear so many incredible stories of courage in the face of this devastating disease, so I want to do everything I can to show my support.

“I urge people in Northern Ireland to be nominated now as the Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People Star Awards are such a great way to pay tribute to these extraordinary children.”

The Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People Star Awards are open to anyone under the age of 18 who has been diagnosed with the disease within the past five years.

There is no jury because the charity believes that every child with cancer deserves special recognition.

Each eligible child nominated will receive a trophy, a £50 TK Maxx gift card, a T-shirt and a certificate signed by celebrities supporting the important campaign. Their brothers and sisters also receive a certificate.

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GET INVOLVED: Nominations for this year’s awards are now open

GET INVOLVED: Nominations for this year’s awards are now open

Clinical trials funded by Cancer Research could lead to new treatments for children battling the disease.

Charity spokeswoman Jean Walsh said: “Brooke is a true star who has been through so much at such a young age.

“It was an absolute privilege to celebrate her bravery with a Star Award and to celebrate the occasion with a special show in these challenging times.

“Cancer in children and adolescents differs from cancer in adults, from the types of cancer to the impact of treatment.

“Many young people can experience serious side effects in the long term. That’s why we support dedicated research to ensure that more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life.

“We urge people in Northern Ireland to nominate inspiring children like Brooke now so that many more can receive the recognition they so richly deserve.”

The Star Awards are presented in partnership with TK Maxx, the largest corporate supporter of Cancer Research UK’s work on childhood cancer.

Since 2004, the retailer has raised more than £40 million for essential research to help improve survival and reduce the long-term side effects of treatments.

– To nominate a star, visit You can support Brooke’s fundraiser by purchasing a wax melt on Instagram or Facebook @Brookerosearomas

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