By Paul Baker
A British RAF pilot is heading to Antigua the hard way.
Phil Holdcroft is rowing across the Atlantic to celebrate a very special milestone in his young daughter’s life.
Aged just 22 months old, little Isla was diagnosed with leukaemia and had over 1,000 rounds of gruelling chemotherapy to fight the deadly disease.
To mark her being cancer-free for five years, proud dad Phil decided to raise funds for charity by taking on the 3,000-mile challenge.
The father-of-two from Oxford set off along with three other RAF pilots on December 12, with all sponsorship money going to the wish-granting charity, Starlight Children’s Foundation, which supported Isla when she was in hospital.
Phil, 42, who is completing the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, praised his “amazing little girl” who has “come on leaps and bounds” since going into remission in October 2016 – and is now officially cancer-free.
He and wife, Beth, explained, “Our family has been able to conquer the impossible and it has been the greatest gift we could’ve ever imagined. At times when all hope was lost, I remember telling myself, get through this hour and then I’ll think about the next.
“Nine months after being diagnosed with leukaemia, Isla was having chemotherapy every day. She lost her hair and was put on steroids, which made her like a completely different child because she’d have unpredictable mood swings and her appetite would come and go.
“But her spirit never dampened and she always had a look of determination and hope. Our amazing little girl was so brave and, because of her, our outlook on life has completely changed.
“We now live in the moment because you never know what is round the corner.”
Phil, who with his RAF colleagues is part of Team Atlantic Flyers, is expected to arrive in Antigua this weekend.
He added, “This is about raising the awareness of cancer in children all over the world, but especially Antigua to Britain.”