The doctors call her Smiley Savannah and it’s not hard to see why.
But despite the smile three-year-old Savannah McAllister is battling leukaemia.
Savannah is undergoing gruelling chemotherapy which has caused her hair to fall out and makes her feel sick.
But she refuses to let it get her down and remains a bundle of energy, much to the amazement – and pride – of mum and dad Emily and Andy.
Savannah was diagnosed with the blood-related cancer on Mother’s Day and in a few short weeks underwent seven platelet transfusions, three blood transfusions, 11 lumbar punctures and daily doses of chemotherapy drugs.
She spent three weeks in hospital and is now midway through a two-month one-week-in, one-week-out hospital regime which causes huge disruption to family life.
Emily and Andy, both 37, have three other children Scarlett, six, Stanley, five, and 15-month-old Sidney and can’t believe how all the youngsters – but particularly Savannah – are coping.
“The doctors call her Smiley Savannah because that’s all she does,” said Emily. “She never has a smile off her face and people can’t believe she is so ill.
“Even when she was going down for a lumbar puncture she was grinning.
“We are so proud of Savannah – she’s a tough cookie – but we are proud of all our children. You would have expected a bit of jealousy from the others but they understand Savannah is poorly and mummy needs to spend more time with her.”
Emily and Andy have had fantastic support from family, friends and complete strangers in the close-knit Slaithwaite community where they live.
And now renowned fundraiser, Slaithwaite hairdresser Julie Earnshaw, has rallied the community to organise Savannah’s Sunday, a family fun day to raise money for the family.
Emily has had to take extended leave from her job as a support worker at Kirklees Council to look after Savannah and keep the family together while Andy is a hands-on dad from the minute he walks in from work as a company manager.
Emily said: “People have been so good to us it’s humbling really. We are a very close family unit and tend not to rely on other people but it’s been just lovely the help we’ve had.
“People often don’t know what to say to us but Andy will be at the school gate battling with a pram and the kids and someone will hand him a pie or if it’s raining I’ll get a text message from someone offering to pick the kids up from school. It’s amazing.”
Emily told how the first they knew something wasn’t right was in February when Savannah just seemed tired and not her usual smiley self.
There were no symptoms they could put their finger on but she got a couple of bruises in odd places.
They put the bruises and her demeanour down to the fact Savannah had started at nursery and Emily had gone back to work after maternity leave with Sidney.
Savannah became constipated and her belly was swollen but a doctor thought it was a virus and the unsettling change.
It was in early March – when Andy was in Spain on a stag do – that Savannah became lethargic and a rash appeared on her legs.
Emily rushed her to A&E at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary where they took samples for testing but feared it was meningitis and sent her to Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax.
At 11pm medics came into the room and told Emily it wasn’t meningitis – but they remained sombre.
“I was so relieved but their faces told the story,” said Emily. “They said they weren’t 100% sure but they believed it was leukaemia.
“I thought meningitis was the worst case scenario. Leukaemia left me completely shocked.”
By 1am it was an ambulance to Leeds General Infirmary and at 6am – on Mother’s Day – leukaemia was confirmed. By 1.30pm on Monday chemotherapy had started.
Emily phoned Andy to break the news and he flew home and the couple were in a daze as doctors explained what would happen next.
They were told leukaemia was very treatable but there were possible serious side-effects. There were lots of trials going on and the couple agreed that Savannah could take part.
“We want to do our best for the next generation too,” said Andy.
The couple can’t praise hospital staff and medics enough and they have a Macmillan nurse and a support worker to help them. It’s not just all about Savannah. Her brothers and sister are important too.
Savannah spent three weeks in hospital after diagnosis and Andy’s parents Duncan and Barbara, of Golcar, stepped in to look after Scarlett, Stanley and Sidney. Emily’s best friend Trudy Beever has also been a rock.
Savannah smiled through her hospital stay and even had her third birthday party, organised by the charity Candlelighters, for close family and friends in hospital. Pizza was brought in specially.
Since Savannah came home the couple have had to become experts at medical procedures too and the intensive treatment continues.
Agonisingly, it will be two-and-a-half years before they know whether the treatment has worked.
“It’s all about just adapting and getting on with it,” said Andy. “We just take it day to day.”
With Savannah taking the treatment so well the family try to keep things as normal as possible doing all the things a young family would.
But Emily has found the emotions hard to keep in check. “I lost my mum, Linda Cunningham, to cancer when I was just 18 so Savannah’s treatments brought a lot of emotions back,” she said.
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“Then my grandma Sheila Whitworth died of cancer on April 11, just four weeks after Savannah was diagnosed. Because my mum died when I was so young I was very close to my grandma.”
Fortunately, there hasn’t been time to dwell and the couple are looking forward to Savannah’s Sunday on June 26 (2pm) at Nobles Bar and Restaurant in Manchester Road, Slaithwaite.
They want to thank everyone who has supported them and have a happy family day.
Several people, including Andy, will have their heads shaved in a ‘donkey derby’ race where punters can bet on who’ll be bald first.
All proceeds from the event – which features some great raffle and auction prizes – will go towards a family holiday to Disney when Savannah’s treatment is over.
“Savannah is Frozen and Disney mad and a holiday for her – and the older children for how well they’ve coped – will give us a break,” said Emily. “It’s been very intense.”