Learning of his daughter's cancer diagnosis confirmed Sqn Ldr Phil Holdcroft and his wife Beth's worst nightmares. Their youngest daughter Isla now had a gruelling fight on her hands to overcome leukaemia and endure the aggressive treatment that would follow.
In his own words, Phil describes some of the emotional rollercoaster his family have ridden since receiving those devastating test results and how the love and support of family, friends and in a small part the RAF Benevolent Fund have been a shining light in their dark days.
Being beckoned into a hospital interview room and having our hearts ripped apart by the devastating news of Isla's diagnosis was indescribably tough. I felt anger, denial and numb all at once. It seemed so unfair that Isla, a beautiful 22-month-old bundle of happiness and joy, should be dealt such a cruel blow. It took 36/48 hours for the news to fully register, but we knew immediately that we must be strong for her and give it everything we had to get her through it.
It soon became apparent that Beth would need to give up her job as a primary school teacher in order to provide fulltime care for Isla; overnight we went from being a two wage-earning family to a single wage earning family. It was a critical time to lose such a big chunk of our income and placed a considerable strain on the family.
That was when we approached the RAF Benevolent Fund, who were able to help out with a grant to fund things like travel to hospital and staying away from home whilst Isla was an in-patient. Support from the RAF Benevolent Fund helped ease the pressure during a very vulnerable period, allowing us to focus wholly on Isla's needs.
The RAF Benevolent Fund has been incredible, approachable and supportive. Certainly for myself there was a bit of a stigma attached to accepting help. As servicemen we are institutionalised to be self-sufficient and able to just cope. But at no point did we feel degraded by the experience – we just felt completely supported.
Isla's illness hasn't altered our priorities but it has given us a unique viewpoint. I liken it to the moment when military folk return from a tour of duty, where everything is vivid and life feels incalculably precious. When Isla is well, we treasure every single moment.
While Isla's end of treatment date is not until October 2016, and she will have to wait until 2021 until she is officially 'cured', we allow our minds to believe we will get there, while remaining firmly focused on the next step ahead.
Yes, we worry. But we are no longer scared. With the support we are blessed with, and the amazing care Isla receives, we remain utterly optimistic that Isla will win her 'challenge for a lifetime'.
The family are now looking forward to a time when Isla, three, can stop her daily chemo treatment and she remains in remission.