15-year-old Mia is an inspiration by anyone’s standards. Having spent seven years struggling to overcome debilitating health anxiety, she was forced to face her greatest fear last summer when she was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.

But despite spending months in hospital and continuing to face gruelling chemotherapy, Mia’s experiences have given her new found confidence. She’s decided to use it to help others, acting as a big sister to the younger children on the oncology unit at the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital for Wales and helping to raise thousands of pounds for children like her. Mia, who has close to 40,000 followers on the TikTok account she set up with her mum to raise awareness, was recently made a Noah’s Ark Charity youth ambassador in thanks for what she does.

Mia started to develop health anxiety when she was eight-years-old. It made it difficult for her to be in crowds and for long periods she wasn’t able to leave the house. Then last summer, at the age of 14, Mia became suddenly unwell. With her daughter deteriorating in front of her eyes, concerned mum, Jade, took Mia to hospital. It was there, after several days of tests and scans, that she was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. Her devastated family were given the news that Mia’s treatment would last two and a half years. The cancer cells had already spread to her lymph nodes and a mass had been detected around her spine. It meant that aggressive chemotherapy needed to start immediately.

Mia says: “I had to spend the next seven weeks in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy, steroid treatment, X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, lumbar punctures, biopsies, blood transfusions and so much more. The chemotherapy had really horrible side effects like nausea and mouth ulcers which made me extremely unwell. It made it difficult to eat and drink or take my medication so I had to have a NG tube inserted.

“My hair started falling out very quickly after starting treatment so I made the decision to shave it off. I was really sad at first because I loved my curls, but I soon got used to my new look. Because I was bed bound for many weeks, I lost a lot of muscle and it was hard to stand or walk very far. I had to work with the physiotherapists to help me get strong again.”

Mia’s anxiety at the thought of being in hospital was so severe that for the first four weeks, she was unable to speak and the panic attacks she had been working so hard to overcome, returned. Though she was well enough to go home for a short while, just four months into her treatment, Mia was rushed to the paediatric critical care unit following a severe reaction to the chemotherapy. Though she’s now in partial remission and on maintenance treatment, Mia recently had another severe reaction to the chemotherapy. She has spent the last three weeks in hospital while her medical team try to control debilitating pain in her legs.
But despite what she continues to endure, Mia’s self-confidence has transformed over recent months and she has fast become a much loved role model for many of the younger patients on the oncology unit.

Four-year-old Vinnie was also diagnosed with leukaemia just a few months after Mia and the two have formed a very special bond.

Vinnie’s mum, Sarah, says: “Vinnie met Mia when they were both coming in for chemo – and they bonded instantly! Mia always has Sully, her favourite cuddly toy from the film Monsters Inc, with her and always made an effort with Vinnie. He took an instant liking to her and, of course, Sully. Everyone who knows Vinnie knows how much he loves a soft toy. Vinnie made me buy him Sully and was so excited to show Mia he had one too! During one of Vinnie’s stays in hospital Mia came in with Mike, the other character from the film, so of course, Vinnie wanted him too! Mia and Vinnie made an agreement that he could look after him until she next came in. He took extra great care of Mike and was so happy to see Mia and return Mike to her when she was next in. Little did we know that Mia, being her extra special self, had brought him his own personalised Mike to keep! Vinnie was over the moon, although he was more over the moon that she was here and he had great fun playing with her!

“The bond between them is so special! He idolises her and she idolises him right back! The friendships he has made in this place will last forever, especially this one. Mia’s bravery and strength rubs off on Vinnie, and they’ll continue to be strong together!”
Mia’s experiences have given her a sense of purpose and she’s now on a mission to help more children like her in whichever way she can.

Mia says: ”Although I still have another two years of treatment, I’m feeling a lot stronger and more positive. A few months ago I was asked to make digital art for a patient information booklet that’s given to families on our ward. Then the Noah’s Ark Charity approached me to ask whether I’d help them design superhero characters for their Superhero 5K Family Fun Day. I love raising money for the charities who have helped me and my family. My mum set up a TikTok account to help me raise awareness and I post on it regularly about my life. We’ve gained nearly 40,000 followers and raised over £2,200 for charity so far and our account keeps growing every day!”

Mia’s mum, Jade, says: “Though it’s been the worst nine months of our lives in so many ways, it’s been wonderful to see Mia’s confidence grow. The hospital and charity staff have been amazing, bigging her up and giving her lots of opportunities that her anxiety would have stopped her from doing before. She took part in a video for the Noah’s Ark Charity and went to a concert that they organised tickets for as thanks. She was terrified of big crowds before so that’s such a big leap forward for Mia. Noah’s Ark even organised for Mia to go to a creative agency called Wordley so that she could work with them on the animations she designed for their superhero event. I’m just so proud of her and the lovely thing is, I know everyone here at the hospital is too.”

Mia’s illustrated characters are now being used on posters and adverts to promote the Noah’s Ark Charity Superhero 5k Family Fun Day, which takes place in June.

Mia’s wonderful artwork demonstrates perfectly why the Noah’s Ark 5K has a superhero theme. Each of Mia’s illustrated characters, herself included, are based on real patients. They, and the thousands of other young superheroes cared for at the children’s hospital, are who our incredible supporters do it all for.  The event is about celebrating the incredible resilience of children like Mia while raising vital funds to make sure they receive the very best care.

As well as treatment and social media content creation, Mia’s short term plans also including gathering her own squad of superheroes to take part in the Superhero 5K. But, despite her new found popularity on TikTok, her longer term career plans look set to take a different turn: Mia says: “It’s my dream to train to become a children’s oncology nurse when I leave school. The nurses and other medical staff who have cared for me have inspired me to help other children in my situation in the future.”

For further information on the Superhero 5K Family Fun Day click here.