My Special Day: Alicia's story
Maria Armstrong looks back on a special day for her daughter, Alicia, who met Jessica Ennis-Hill. Alicia watched her heroine win gold at the London Olympics as she recovered from treatment for leukaemia. Jess delivered a video message to Alicia before inviting her for a training session.
Last Updated: 23/12/13 9:50am
Jess and Alicia
Sport has always been an integral part of Alicia's life. Before she became ill she trained with our three local sports clubs and just weeks prior to her diagnosis she had competed in the UK Schools Biathlon Finals in London.
Since being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in May 2012, a week before her 11th birthday, Alicia has demonstrated such strength, resilience and courage.
Sports-mad youngster Alicia Armstrong gets a surprise from her idol Jessica Ennis-Hill in this week's My Special Day.
Whilst we spent most of our time confined to a hospital room the Olympics proved to be a very welcome distraction for Alicia. I remember watching Jessica Ennis-Hill on 'Super Saturday' with Alicia and as Jessica fell to her knees and cried when she crossed the finish line of the final event, who didn't want to cry with happiness for her?
The name poster Alicia designed for her hospital door was covered in pictures of various Olympic athletes with Jessica pride of place right in the middle. Top of Alicia's Christmas list was Jessica's autobiography which she promptly read in a matter of days.
Jessica Ennis-Hill shows Alicia how to do the Long Jump on My Special Day.
Alicia's treatment and having a bone marrow transplant left her very physically weak but Alicia was determined that she would return to her sport and set herself a goal that she wanted to do one triathlon this season.
With quiet determination Alicia got back on her bike, returned to the running track and eventually, when her central venous lines were removed in June, she got back in the swimming pool. All these moments were real milestones to regaining the normality that she desperately craved.
Her determination in returning to her sport has been inspirational for everyone that knows her and when she completed her first triathlon post-transplant in July, there was not a dry eye to be seen.
Jessica Enins-Hill talks to Alicia Armstrong on My Special Day.
Not content with completing a triathlon in less than a year since her transplant, Alicia then set her sights on completing the junior Great North Run in September with a group of her friends to raise money for Josie's Dragonfly Trust, a charity that supports children with terminal cancer. I worried that this was too much for her, but Alicia's showed me again that fighting spirit that she had displayed so many times over the last eighteen months, and ran through the finish line with a beaming smile.
When I received the phone call to let me know that Alicia was going to meet and train with Jessica, I was bursting with excitement. After everything Alicia had been through this was so truly deserved. Sky Sports came to surprise Alicia with the news at school in assembly a few weeks later. To see the surprise and delight on her face was a magical moment. To meet your sporting hero is a dream most people never get to experience. The day itself was a magical day for Alicia. Jessica, the nation's sweetheart, showed us in real life the reason we all admire her so much. She is so successful, talented, competitive but at the same time so friendly and down to earth.
Jessica Ennis-Hill shows Alicia how to do the Hurdles on My Special Day.
All that Jessica has achieved demonstrates hard work and self-discipline, qualities that are so important to teach children, making her a wonderful role model for young girls.
There were too many significant moments that day to mention them all. But when Jessica set the high jump bar at 1.95m, her personal best, it was just so unbelievable that someone so petite could get over a bar so high, and when she showed Alicia her gold medal Alicia's face was a picture as she held it and exclaimed how heavy it was.
Looking back at the day Alicia and I often talk about just how surreal it was that she enjoyed a training session with Jessica. When I nominated Alicia, I wanted her to know how special she is and how proud we all are of her, and to get to experience such a special day did just that. Those magical memories will now stay with Alicia forever and continue to inspire her in her own sporting goals going forward.