At the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Connecticut, USA
Bryony Daly was the inspiration for Yes to Life. Set up originally as a trust fund to raise funds for alternative cancer therapies for Bryony, the intention, from the start, was to go on to help others in her predicament.
Bryony Daly was an extraordinary young woman who throughout her 23 years was repeatedly challenged with highly malignant cancers. Having recovered from a second amputation on her left leg in early 2004 due to a bone tumour, she was faced with secondary cancer in her lung, but most significantly for her and many others in her situation, she was faced with the end of the line as far as what the National Health Service has to offer.
Bryony stood up against the odds since she was 9 years old, when a calf injury failed to heal, and she was eventually diagnosed with a rare and highly malignant muscle tumour. Life for Bryony and her family completely turned upside down. She was rushed to Bristol to face debilitating treatments, operations, hair loss, etc etc coupled with appalling ward conditions. The next year was spent almost entirely in hospitals in Bristol and Exeter having chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, alongside anthroposophical (Steiner-based) treatment, homoeopathy, healing and other alternative treatments.
This was a life-changing time for all concerned, as she, like many others, lost the will to live and went rapidly downhill, eventually refusing to eat or do anything at all. Then, following a visit by a local healer, Bryony had a complete turnaround in a most miraculous manner, from which she never looked back. She said YES TO LIFE in a fundamental way. She became more outgoing and engaged with life, and as a result got better and better as the year of treatment progressed.
In 1993 she made her first visit to The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp (THITWGC) in Connecticut USA. This is one of many camps now established by Paul Newman (funded by his food products) which provide children with life-threatening diseases with an opportunity to have a great time. This was a fantastic experience for Bryony - at the end of a rollercoaster week, many strong relationships had ben built with other campers and with the leaders.
At 12 yrs old Bryony's leg was useless having been debilitated by surgery and a lot of radiotherapy that stunted its growth. Just as she reached the conclusion that a false leg would be better, she was diagnosed with bone cancer caused by excessive radiotherapy, and so amputation was a must. Four months more chemo followed.
Then followed almost 10 yrs clear of cancer during which she went to Exeter School. There Bryony developed her love of music, teamed up with her partner Kit and then moved on to Birmingham University where she obtained a 2:1 in Music. Every year, she found a way to return to THITWGC either in USA or Ireland. She became a trainee leader and eventually spent every summer leading many teams of children of all ages, all of whom had a life-threatening condition of some kind.
The inspiration for Yes to Life - Bryony Daly
During summer at camp in 2003 her knee started to hurt. Initially she thought it was due to the enthusiastically overactive lifestyle of camp. At the end of the holidays she returned to England to start teacher training, but her knee deteriorated. Then began a three month battle with her consultant to get him to take the possibility of a recurrence seriously. Eventually she had to be admitted to hospital because she was in so much pain.
At this point she was finally diagnosed with another radiotherapy-induced bone tumour. Not all of the area that had been irradiated had been amputated. Unfortunately by this time she had secondaries in her lung.
At the end of the year Bryony moved to London with Kit, very close to the Middlesex Hospital that specialises in bone tumours and near her family for support. She was prescribed another 6 months chemo, and an amputation above the knee. Internet research prompted major changes in terms of diet - in line with much current thinking on cancer - and taking a huge range of immune system boosters and anti-cancer agents became a daily ritual.
With classmates from South Devon Rudolf Steiner School
She finished chemotherapy, one session short of the six that were prescribed. The point had been reached when it starts to do more damage than good. Unfortunately it had only had a limited effect, keeping the tumours in check but not reducing them. The NHS did not have anything to offer in this situation. In anticipation of this, Bryony's family had been investigating all the altenatives available.
She had just started treatment with high dose vitamin C when her condition deteriorated sharply. Plans for further treatment had to go on hold whilst she underwent an urgent operation to try to assist her lung. This was, unfortunately, largely unsuccessful, and within a couple of weeks she passed away peacefully.
We all share the sorrow of losing such a beautiful human being who was loved and supported by so many people around the world. In her last months, the incredible support and generosity she received gave her hope and fuelled her courageous fight against her illness and helped her maintain a positive spirit throughout.
Interview by Jane Riddiford - Trustee of the charity Global Generation