‘If Isla has taught us anything, it’s to value what’s important in life’

Blowing Bubbles pays tribute to brave, courageous Isla Caton who sadly passed away last month

In a world which is increasingly divided, and in an age where social media seems to offer only extremities of opinion, it takes something special to unanimously unite people.

Isla Caton was that something special, as was the love and dedication shown by her family Nicola, Michael and Millie.

Initially dismissed by doctors as suffering from nothing more than flu, it was the unwavering understanding of a child that only a mother has that fuelled the determination after multiple visits to get answers.

Sadly, those answers were not what anyone would have wanted, and the initial diagnosis of Neuroblastoma was given, as she was moved to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Chemotherapy and stem cell transplants, prior to being offered a special vaccine in America, at the cost of £192k in May 2017.

It was at this point that Isla’s tale became prominent, as fundraising first began in earnest to try and help a member of the West Ham family. 

Auctions, sales of memorabilia, cash donations all came flooding in from fans of the club who all came together wishing for the best possible outcomes. Extraordinary efforts such as the Millwall fan who ran the marathon in a West Ham shirt, and the outpouring of support from fans of other clubs showed that at times like this, not even fierce rivalries matter.

Indeed, everything paled into insignificance when it came to the matter of this poor girl fighting so bravely.

And fight she did. Defying doctors, and providing hope for all. Bravely undergoing major surgeries, and painful treatment. Followers on Twitter and Facebook would eagerly await updates from Nicola, and the pictures of Isla’s gorgeous smile to indicate she was one the road to recovery from that particular setback.

The outpouring of love and affection was evident for all to see. There couldn’t have been anyone who wasn’t moved at the sight of Mark Noble carrying her onto the field as mascot in 2018, as Isla became the beacon of unity amongst a previously infighting West Ham fanbase.

Courageously, Isla and her family fought on, moving to Barcelona for two years in the hope that a breakthrough could be found. Isla bravely taking each step in her stride, and even being visited by Noble and Rob Snodgrass, as her story continued to touch so many.

Cash donations from the chairmen, and donations of items to raise money from players showed that from the top of the club down to the supporters, we were trying to show that we were there with the family every step of the way.

The likes of Baz Cox and Roger Waller went above and beyond with bucket collections at games, Sue Clarke ensured that something was always for sale to the benefit of Isla’s fund.

Current players sent messages of support, and former players gathered for charity matches. Everyone who could do something seemed to. Our fanbase was brought together as we did everything possible to aid in the fight. 

At one stage, we all hoped that that fight had been won, when in March 2019 it was announced that Isla was cancer free. But sadly, this was not to stay the case and the disease returned. 

Amidst continued treatment, the family were informed in December 2021 that there was no more that could be done. Attention shifted as fundraising efforts doubled – auctions hitting unexpected totals, charity songs reaching number 1, widespread awareness on TalkSport and Sky TV – but this time not to help with treatment, but to give Isla and her family as many lasting memories together as possible.

Sadly, last month, it was announced that Isla had lost her brave fight surrounded by those she loved most. She was 7 years old.

The deepest sympathies from everyone here at Blowing Bubbles are with the amazing Nicola, Michael, Mille and all the family. Thoughts also go out to all who emotionally invested in Isla’s fight, and to those who did all they could to help.  

The courage shown by her and her family should be an example for us all. The fight shown by Isla is a true inspiration.

The outpouring of kindness showed what can happen when people come together. If Isla has taught us anything, it’s to value what is important in life. Rest in peace Isla Caton.

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