A MUM has been forced to make a do-or-die dash to Spain to continue her five-year-old’s cancer treatment after she suffered a relapse.
Isla Caton's mum Nikki, 40, is terrified one of them will catch coronavirus after flying to Spain – but says cancer will kill her daughter otherwise.
Plucky Isla, five, won the heart of EastEnders legend Danny Dyer as she battled rare neuroblastoma.
She had private therapy in Barcelona after well-wishers raised hundreds of thousands of pounds and got the all clear last year.
But a scan in January revealed new tumours, so Nikki flew her back to the coronavirus hotspot on Sunday for more experimental treatment.
Nikki, of Hornchurch, Essex, said in an exclusive interview: “I’m terrified one of us will catch the bug, but this is my daughter and it’s literally a matter of life or death.
“The cancer is so aggressive that if we stay here or even delay a month, Isla could die. There’s no time to lose.”
Isla was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2017 and had a golf-ball sized tumour removed at Great Ormond Street hospital.
A year later, scans detected cancer in her arms and legs and the family were told her only hope was private treatment overseas.
Her family – staunch West Ham fans – found a legion of support in the club’s loyal followers.
The cancer is so aggressive that if we stay here or even delay a month, Isla could die. There’s no time to lose
Their plight also touched the hearts of the Hammers’ fierce rivals Millwall, who joined in the fundraising effort.
Together, the two clubs have helped raise over half a million pounds.
Danny Dyer backed the campaign by turning out for a celebrity and West Ham stars footie match last year, which raised £30,000 alone.
The cash helped pay for experimental ‘humanised antibody’ treatment – not available on the NHS – at the Hospital Sant Joan Déu in Barcelona.
Nikki and partner Michael Wood, 50, abandoned their home in the UK and moved to Spain while Isla fought the disease.
They moved back to Britain in January but were rocked by the news that scans had detected new spots on Isla’s arm and eyelid.
The family jetted back to Spain on Sunday and Nikki explained: “Isla needs another seven months of treatment, which is one week on, three weeks off.
Now we’re here, we’ll have to stay. We can’t gamble Isla’s life on going back to the UK and not being able to return to Spain
“We thought we’d be able to stay in the UK and fly backwards and forwards, but international travel has descended into chaos.
“We’ve had two EasyJet and four BA flights to Spain for the next round of treatment cancelled.
“I had to book two planes on different days to get us here this week, in the hope at least one of them would fly.
“Now we’re here, it looks like we’ll have to stay. We can’t gamble Isla’s life on going back to the UK and not being able to return to Spain.”
With no support network in Spain, Nikki has no choice but to go the supermarket to shop for provisions and fears she could catch COVID-19.
She said: “Isla’s immune system is absolutely shattered so we have to be careful at the best of times.
“We’ve got quite used to long periods of isolation while she’s been battling her illness, but we don’t know anyone in Spain.
"We’ve had to find temporary Airbnb accommodation and will have to venture out ourselves for shopping. At the moment we can’t even find a car to hire.
“What if one – or both – of us falls ill? What will happen to Isla? It doesn’t bear thinking about.”
The current pandemic has also rocked the family's fundraising efforts.
Some £80,000-worth of planned events – including another football match and a charity ball – have been cancelled.
The effort also relied heavily on collecting spare change from Hammers fans at weekend ties – something which has stopped with the pause on Premier League matches.
Spain has been rocked by 148,220 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 14,972 deaths, on the last count.
The country's total number of cases is second only to the United States, which has a much larger population.
Catalonia, where Barcelona is, is the second worst affected region – after the capital of Madrid.
The Foreign Office is advising against all but essential foreign travel.
Brits are barred from entering Spain but luckily Michael obtained a residence permit during the family’s stay last year.
To support Isla's fundraising effort, please click here.
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