Community rallies to help Bibi beat cancer

By Luchia Robinson

Bibi Maia
Credit: Tiago Maia

A family raising £200,000 for life saving cancer treatment is finding support from the local community.  

Residents are coordinating events across Tottenham to help parents Tiago Maia and Laura Farmer-Maia generate funds so that their youngest daughter, Beatriz ‘Bibi’ can get immunotherapy treatment abroad.  

Tiago and Laura, who live in St Ann’s ward, first realised there was a problem, last July when Bibi began having fevers and night sweats. She also became uncharacteristically clingy, and would complain of pain in her stomach and legs.  

After months of trying to discover what was wrong, medical tests confirmed that Bibi had childhood cancer, neuroblastoma.  

Bibi initially responded well to eight months of frontline treatment, high dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, however, she relapsed.  

Bibi’s parents are now hoping she responds well to a new trial of immunotherapy and chemotherapy that she is currently receiving.  

Tiago said: “The vast majority of treatments for neuroblastoma are experimental– they’re trials. We are lucky enough that Bibi got this one, which is being run by the NHS, but the avenues are just narrowing down.”

To increase Bibi’s chances the Maia’s are considering different treatments available in America and Spain. The funds raised from the community events, which include a folk night, a supper club and a concert, will go towards the treatment and the family’s relocation.  

Genevieve Sparrow, who runs the European supper club, Pasero with her husband Tim, is hosting a fundraiser at Living Under One Sun. She said: “We’ve been in Tottenham for five years and my experience is whatever it is you want help with, or whatever it is you need, you can always find it locally if you just ask.  

“It just felt completely normal to us to help another family who were looking for support with, what must be such a difficult situation. It was just a no-brainer for us.  

“It’s an awful lot of money that they’re trying to raise, so we just thought that if we could give them, what I think it will be, £1,500–£2,000 – it barely touches the sides of what they are trying to raise, but we’d love to make that contribution.”  

Laura Goodman organiser of music event night, Beats 4 Bibi said: “Bibi’s cancer diagnosis was just so shocking, and I wanted to support in any way I could. Fundraising is a very concrete way to do something practical and useful.  

“I think the way the community has come together for this, and all the other fundraising events for Bibi, feels almost as important as the money itself.  

“It’s been so positive to show Bibi’s family how much support and goodwill there is in Tottenham. It reminds me why I love living here so much.”  

Cuddles with Dad
Credit: Tiago Maia

In response to the fundraising initiatives that locals have been organising, Tiago said: “These events have allowed us to get to know quite a lot of people. It’s also given us something to keep entertained that’s not just staying at home and looking after a sick child.

“We have been using our work skills [to promote the events] – I’m a designer and Laura’s a copy writer, so we’ve been able to focus on the social media side of things. It’s kept us busy, which is good.  

“When we had the folk gig, I had a smile on my face the whole evening, and that hasn’t happened much. It’s an opportunity to be outside of the house – having a little bit of positivity happening around us.”  

100 children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma each year in the UK. There is a 40% survival rate for children diagnosed with ‘high risk’ neuroblastoma.  

Although neuroblastoma is a rarer childhood cancer, Tiago advises parents to be alert. He said: “If you think something is wrong, if there is something that has been lasting for a long time and the symptoms are not just the symptoms of a cold, get your GP to actually get it tested properly.”