Mum takes daughter to US for cancer treatment, and returns to stunning act of kindness from neighbours

Cassidy family

Emily Cassidy, aged three, had a tumour behind her eye, which needed treatment that wasn't available in the UK. The NHS agreed to pay for proton beam therapy in the US, so Emily and her mum Lucy flew out to Jacksonville, Florida in June. While they were away, locals gave them an incredible gift: a £60,000 home makeover.

The Daily Mail reported that Emily had been diagnosed with retinoblastoma at the beginning of the year, and had an operation to remove it in March. Unfortunately, doctors found it had spread, so Emily needed chemotherapy. They also recommended proton beam therapy, which attacks cancer cells, but does less damage to the rest of the body, and the NHS agreed to pay for treatment in the US.

According to the Birmingham Mail, the family's terraced house in Stretchford, Birmingham was in desperate need of improvement. Many of the rooms were in a terrible state, and Lucy had been forced to wash up in the bathroom after her kitchen sink broke five months ago.

They had been visited by Georgie Moseley of Help Harry Help Others, a charity she set up after losing her son Harry to cancer in 2011. While Lucy and Emily were in America, Lucy knew someone from the charity was coming in to help, but just thought they would fix the roof and do a bit of painting.

The kitchen

Instead, the charity brought together neighbours and local businesses to dramatically improve their home. They added a new roof, built a new kitchen, redecorated throughout, rewired and replumbed it, bought new furniture, and even built an extension, so Emily had a beautiful, bright home to help her recovery. Colmore Tang Construction, which managed the overhaul, said it was worth around £60,000.

Lucy said the change would transform life for her and her three children.

Lucy Cassidy views her transformed home

Transforming lives

It's the kind of story we only usually see on DIY SOS, and each time, it's a vital reminder of how a community can come together to dramatically improve the lives of people who have already gone through enough.

And while they are incredible stories to watch, those who take part say it's life-changing to be a part of too. When the programme comes to your area, the presenters will usually appear on local media asking for specific items or skills. However, the best way to avid missing this is to follow the programme on Twitter.

The Twitter feed shows they have been transforming a property in Welwyn Garden City during August, and that they will be helping another forces family in Manchester this autumn, and a family on the Isle of Sheppy in Kent in October, and are looking for people to help.

Alternatively, if you know someone who needs their help, you can nominate them online.

If you don't have the skills to help DIY SOS, then the Help Harry Help Others charity is always looking for donations to help other families touched by childhood cancer, and there's a Just Giving page where people can donate.

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The top ten DIY projects: are they worth it?
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The top ten DIY projects: are they worth it?

Of course with all these things, the value it adds depends on the property you have to start with, and the kinds of improvements you make, but Which? estimates the cost of a new kitchen at £8,000 and HSBC calculates the added value to your property at £4,500 - which is a clear loss.

This has been done by 41% of people in the last three years, and 29% of people plan it in the next three. It's cheaper than a kitchen, and Which? estimates the cost at £3,000. This is roughly the same value that HSBC says it will add to your property - so you'll break-even.

This has been installed by 31% of us in the last three years, and 15% plan it in the next three. Installing central heating is a disruptive job, and according to WhatPrice it will cost you around £3,235. However, this is the first of the top ten to actually pay off. Property expert Phil Spencer says it will add £5,000 to the value.

Some 18% have added one in the last three years, and 30% will in the next three. This is another huge job, but with more people struggling to move and deciding to improve instead, it's increasingly popular. The amount it costs will depend on an enormous number of things, from the area you have to work with, to the size of the extension. However, assuming you add a single room you could spend around £20,000. HSBC estimates it will add around £15,500 to the value of the property, so you are unlikely to gain as much as you spend.

17% have done one of these in the last three years, and 20% will in the next three. This doesn't have to cost more than a couple of hundred pounds, but according to a survey from Halifax a few years ago it costs an average of £850 and adds almost £1,500 to the value. This is the second financial sound project in the list.

11% of us have knocked rooms through in the last three years and 8% will in the next three. If you're creating more usable space, then buyers won't mind you are reducing the number of rooms. If it's a supporting wall you can end up spending around £1,500, whereas a non-load-bearing wall should be doable in a day with a laborour and a plasterer for a couple of hundred pounds. It's unlikely to specifically add value though.

8% have put them in over the last three years, and 8% plan to in the next three. A solar panel costs about £6,500. It's definitely not going to add value to your property. However, it can pay off. With a feed-in-tariff you can save yourself £600 a year in heating, and can sell up to £450 back to the grid. The lifespan of the panel should be 20 years, so you'll break even after six and a half years and start making money. It's the third wise financial move here.

6% have done this in the last three years and 11% plan to in the next three. According to HSBC it adds the most value - at an average of £16,000. However, at a cost of £20,000 or more, it won't make you money.

4% of people have added one in the last three years and 7% plan to in the next three. As with a similar extension, you're likely to spend £20,000 and add £15,000 of value. So it only makes sense if your family is too big for the house.

2% have converted the cellar in the last three years, and 4% plan to in the next three. This is not a great way to see a return on your money - unless you live in the kind of area where you are absolutely out of any other options when it comes to making more space. It's not cheap - starting at £10,000 for simple waterproofing and finishing, to £50,000 for more intensive work. It will typically add £20,000 to the property.


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