PJ model who celebrates 10th anniversary as Alder Hey ambassador was once given six weeks to live
2 months ago
PJ model Erin is celebrating her 10th anniversary as an Alder Hey Children’s Charity ambassador.
Erin Cross smiles for the camera as she and her family promote the popular Christmas PJs for Alder Hey Children’s Charity, and mum Sarah feels a surge of pride – and relief.
“It’s 10 years since Erin was first asked to be an ambassador for Alder Hey, and anything could have happened between then and now… but everything’s turned out right,” she smiles.
“I was emotional, looking at her and thinking how happy and beautiful she looks. It’s hard to believe she was once given just six weeks to live.
“We are so lucky to have got as far as we have, and moments like this are very special.”
Erin, 13, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) just weeks after her second birthday.
“She was constantly having chest infections and we were always at the doctors with one thing or another,” says Sarah, 49. “I think at first they thought I was an over protective mum because I had Erin after eight years of fertility treatment.
“But I knew something was wrong.”
It was after she’d suffered with chronic breathing problems that Sarah and husband Antony, 46, took their young daughter to A&E at the Countess of Chester Hospital near when they live.
“At first they thought she had asthma and tonsilitis,” explains Sarah, “but they did a series of blood tests which confirmed she had leukaemia. I knew something bad was coming when they sat me and Antony down and I had an out of body experience with the shock when they told us, it was like I was looking down on myself while the conversation was happening.
“I hadn’t heard about many children getting cancer and I couldn’t believe it, especially after what we’d been through to have her. She went from being our bubbly happy little girl, always playing with her friends and laughing, to being a very poorly child.
“Normal life went out of the window.”
Erin was transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital where she immediately underwent a life-saving blood platelet transfusion before being placed on steroids and a two-year programme of chemotherapy.
Hers was a positive prognosis with an 80% chance of the treatment working and, even when it was realised that Erin needed more chemo because she fell into a rare Regimen C category, everything was looking good.
But after only 11 months of her treatment ending, in 2016, at the age of six, she suffered a relapse.
And when further chemotherapy failed to work, the future wasn’t looking hopeful: “At one point we were warned that there weren’t many options and we were told Erin might have only six weeks to live,” says Sarah. “But Antony and I had done our research and heard about a treatment in America which could work.”
The only problem was that Sarah and Anthony – who’s a teacher – had to raise £140,000 for the Car T-cell therapy ‘although it would have cost £1 million’.
As photos of Erin were published and people were moved to help, her battle to raise money went viral with even Lord Alan Sugar and Boy George retweeting her story and joining the race to find the funding. And in three days the total, incredibly, was reached.
Erin had her treatment in Seattle followed by a bone marrow transplant at Manchester Children’s Hospital.
Although she has been left with Graft Versus Host Disease as donor cells fight her own leaving her with painful and tight joints and skin, Erin refuses to be defeated.
“She has just come off medication after six years and Erin just wants to live a normal life and make the most of life,” says Sarah. “In year 7 at high school she had 100% attendance which is amazing – I think she managed about two years altogether at primary because she was in an out of hospital.”
As she celebrates being in remission for seven years now Erin, a pupil at Bishop’s High in Chester, continues to raise money for Alder Hey and work as an ambassador on their behalf.
“She started fund raising for Alder Hey when she was first diagnosed, bag-packing with friends and family in Morrisons. We’ve raised £24,000 and Erin has always been there helping out and working at fundraising events. She was invited to the hospital when they opened and officially launched the new building, and she has met Prince Charles and the late Queen.
“Erin just wants to help, and she knows that any money raised will go to children like her. It’s important for her, which is why she raises money for other charities too.
“When she was asked to model the pyjamas for this year’s Matalan campaign for Alder Hey Children’s Charity she really wanted to take part because she knows how vital it is and how much money it raises each year.
“She loved having her makeup done for the photoshoot and doing this is a lovely way to mark her 10th anniversary as an ambassador for the charity.
“We have been told that Erin is now as likely to relapse and become ill again as anyone is likely to get cancer. So it’s good to know that the worst times are behind us now, and we can look forward to the future.
“Being part of the new PJs campaign is a nice way to celebrate that.”