A FAMILY from York have shaved their heads in support of a teenager suffering from a life-threatening illness.
Nioni Grant, 16, is a pupil at Manor school, and was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), in January. She has spent most of the last five months undergoing treatment at Leeds General Infirmary, and is preparing for a cord stem cell transplant later this month (JUNE) to combat the condition.
Nioni has already had several bouts of chemotherapy to combat the potentially-fatal condition, but the next stage of treatment will see her immune system destroyed with radiation, before donor stem cells are transplanted from a suitable donor to create a new, healthy immune system.
Her mother Rosie Quinn, 35, is a carer at The Lodge care home, and has juggled hospital visits with looking after her 13-month-old son Denzel.
Rosie, of Chesney Fields, Acomb, said: "When Nioni became ill from Christmas, I took her to the doctors in January because my baby was due for a check-up and that's when they said she had to go for blood tests. They happened in the morning and they phoned that evening. We went from York Hospital to LGI that night, and were there until the end of January.
"It was a shock, obviously, and not seeing my baby every day or knowing when Nioni can come back and see home is a major shock to the family. I'm quite an organised person and suddenly being in that position was tearing me apart - not knowing what was happening from day to day, worrying and trying to find a stable routine. We don't know anyone in Leeds or have family members there. She's in isolation and it feels like that for all of us because we're so far away."
Rosie, who also has a 17-year-old son, Ashley, has had to leave her baby with a family friend most days, but said she was hopeful the family would soon be spending more time together as Nioni is in remission, and if the transplant goes well and her body accepts the donor cells after several months of isolation, she could come home for good.
Rosie said: "It's hard, I'm having to put faith and trust in someone else. I know he's alright but sometimes it's upsetting when I get a picture message but obviously my daughter needs me more at the moment.
"The things I've seen on that ward and what those kids have to go through has opened my eyes up so much more. If I didn't have a background as a carer I don't think I would be able to prevent breaking down. I still do, but not in front of people."
Recently, Nioni's health has improved enough for her to leave hospital for a few days at a time.
Rosie said: "In the last couple of weeks we've managed to have some time at home which is really great to be honest because it feels like it never ends there.
"I think she just wants it over and done with and to try and get back to her old life. We all do really. We have had a pretty normal kind of life. It's scary, especially spending this much time without Denzel so I'm hoping he's not going to remember that. We've been pretty lucky in the past two-and-a-half weeks having some time at home. I think she needs this break, because she'll be in isolation for a couple of months recovering."
Last month, Rosie and Ashley hosted a charity event at St Clements WMC, which raised more than £2,000 for Candlelighters and had their heads shaved for Locks of Love.
Nioni's classmates and teachers helped cater the event, and Rosie said it was a good way for her to get back in touch with her regular life.
Rosie said: "They let her out for the Friday to go to the event which we kept a surprise. Took her to school with me and they were so surprised and even on the night.
"Some of her hair has grown back after not having chemotherapy for a couple of months, so Nioni's got the longest hair out of the three of us now. The weather has changed again since, so it's a bit cold. I wasn't nervous to be honest, just felt great because it's the things I have seen these children on the ward. They don't have a choice so it must be hard for them."