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The Duchess of Cambridge shares touching call with young leukaemia patient

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The Duchess of Cambridge

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Earlier this week, royal fans were treated to the exciting news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have launched their own YouTube channel. Now, in the first video released to the platform after the initial introductory trailer, the Duchess has shared a moving phone call she made to a young girl suffering from leukaemia.

The conversation is the first in a series that will be posted on the channel, in which Kate talks over the phone with participants from Hold Still, the public photography project which she spearheaded with the National Portrait Gallery last year. The caption to the YouTube video relates: ‘The calls, which took place last autumn, saw the Duchess speak to a number of the 100 finalists who shared their experiences of life during the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK by submitting an image to Hold Still.’

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In the video, Kate speaks to four-year-old Mila Sneddon from Falkirk, who featured in one of the final chosen photographs in the Hold Still exhibition, ‘Shielding Mila’, and her mother, Lynda. The video explains the moving story behind the image, relating: ‘In the week prior to lockdown, Mila’s family took the difficult decision to isolate in different households to protect Mila, who at this point was only four months into her chemotherapy journey for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.’

During this time, ‘Every day, her dad Scott and big sister Jodie would visit at the window.’ The touching photograph submitted by Mila’s family shows her pressed up against the glass, in order to see her smiling father outside. The video goes on to state: ‘After seven weeks of temporary separation, and after being furloughed from his job, Scott was reunited with Mila.’ Then, in January this year, ‘Mila received the Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award.’

At the beginning of her conversation with the four-year-old, the Duchess exclaims: ‘My goodness me, you’re so polite Mila!’ She explains that she’s calling ‘to say thank you very very much for sending in your fantastic photograph’, before asking about the image of her and her father, saying: ‘How come you couldn’t see him for so long?’ Mila replies: ‘Because he had to look after me because I went for a treatment.’ Kate asks if it was ‘really hard not seeing him’, noting that ‘It’s a very small age, Mila, four, to have a big operation’. She also asks Mila, ‘Were you very brave?’, before praising her for being ‘a very strong girl’.

In one adorable moment, Mila asks the Duchess: ‘Do you have a costume?’ Kate replies that she’s ‘not wearing a princess costume right now, I’m afraid Mila’, before finding out about Mila’s own dressing up outfits and her favourite colour – ‘Pink’. The Duchess replies: ‘Pink. Okay well I have to make sure… I go and try to find myself a pink dress… Hopefully, when one day… Mila, we’ll get to meet, and then I’ll remember to wear my pink dress for you.’ Clearly excited at the prospect, the four-year-old eagerly exclaims: ‘Yay!’

Mila also tells Kate, ‘I know all your kids’ names!’, before listing ‘Charlotte’, ‘George’, and ‘Louis’, as the Duchess prompts her: ‘Yes, who else?… George! Well done, and there’s one more… Yay!’ She tells Mila that ‘Louis has got so big now, he’s very quick running around and he’s on his little scooter as well’, adding: ‘I can’t keep up with him.’

Lynda reveals that Mila likes going on her scooter too, before Kate asks, ‘What’s your favourite thing to do, Mila?’ to which Mila replies, ‘I like walking my doggie.’ The Duchess asks the dog’s name, and Mila exclaims, ‘Mr Cole!’. Lynda explains that ‘His name is Cole, but Mila has always called him Mr Cole’, to which Kate replies: ‘Mr Cole! Very sweet!’

Kate also speaks to Mila’s mother about her experiences, asking: ‘Lynda, tell me, how are you doing? It must have been so challenging for all of you during lockdown, being separated, and not really knowing… when or how long you were going to be separated for?’ Lynda replies that while they had their ‘ups and downs’, one ‘silver lining’ of lockdown was being able to ‘just focus on [Mila’s] treatment without any interruption of general illnesses and viruses in general, not just COVID’, because ‘she’s still going through treatment and her immune system is compromised’.

With the family now reunited and living together once again, Lynda adds: ‘Scott and I are so proud of Mila and Jodi, my eldest, through this time and the challenges that they’ve had to overcome’, with Kate noting that ‘families like yourselves need the support and the reassurance from the communities that they live in more than anyone, actually.’

Lynda describes Hold Still as ‘an amazing project, really heartfelt’. When the Duchess asks who decided to submit the photograph, Lynda relates that her mother ‘had said I really think that picture’s certainly quite poignant and you should submit it, and so we did.’ Kate notes, ‘Well we love your photograph’, adding: ‘I think I felt, I think the judging panel also felt that your story was such a powerful one for that reason… these stories have been going on behind closed doors, it’s not the stories everybody hears about.’ She thanks the family for sending in the photo and ‘for sharing such a personal time.’

The Duchess concludes the call by saying, ‘Thank you again for sending in your photograph and I wish you all the best and good luck to Mila with her ongoing treatment as well.’ The video then reveals that Mila ‘is still excited to pick out a new pink dress’ – and hopefully Kate is too.

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Today, 7 May, a special book sharing the collection of Hold Still photographs goes on sale in UK bookshops and online. A post to the @dukeandduchessofcambridge Instagram account revealed that Kate has joined forces with a book-hiding project, the Book Fairies UK, to mark the day, with the caption relating: ‘Let the search begin! We’ve joined @bookfairies_uk for the day to share copies of Hold Still around the UK with you.

‘Each copy is adorned with a gold book fairy sticker, gold ribbon, and has a letter from The Duchess tucked inside. To make this activity even more special, book fairies, the Hold Still judges and participants of the final 100 images are leaving copies at places that gave them hope during the lockdown.’

To mark the publication of Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020, The Duchess of Cambridge also visited the Royal London Hospital and the National Portrait Gallery, a year on from the initial launch of the Hold Still photography project.

A press release from Kensington Palace explained: ‘The Hold Still book brings together the final 100 Hold Still portraits, providing a unique record of our shared and individual experiences as the COVID pandemic took hold. Put together with support from the Co-op, the publication is now available in UK bookshops and online. Net proceeds raised from the sale of the book will be split between leading mental health charity Mind and the National Portrait Gallery, helping to support arts and mental health projects across the UK, including Mind’s work in local communities and the Gallery’s education and community projects.’

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