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Children share their experiences of cancer to mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

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by Cancer Research UK | News

4 September 2017

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This Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens met four inspirational children who shared the harsh reality of being diagnosed with the disease. The footage was then played back to their parents, who witnessed how their children really felt and what their parents meant to them during their treatment. 

The charity created the film to raise awareness of the disease and ask the public to support its work to find new, better and kinder treatments for children and young people with cancer.  The film highlighted how a diagnosis affects the children, as well as those around them. 

12-year-old Bella was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2012, while on holiday with her family. She said: “My mum did cry sometimes, but it was strange to see my dad cry, because I’d never seen him like that before. When my hair started falling out, he was devastated. In the end we just had to shave most of it off.”

Bella’s dad Andy commented on how she still amazes him three years after completing her treatment. “To see what my daughter has been through, I’ll never take her for granted. That first 72 hours of Bella being diagnosed was really, really terrifying.” He said: “I remember saying to my dad, ‘I don’t think I can do this anymore’, and he said, ‘Man up, get up and do it, you’ve got to.’”

Nengi, 10, received the news she had non-Hodgkin lymphoma when she was only two-years-old. She revealed how her mum, Janet, dealt with her treatment. “Sometimes my mum would be upset and I wouldn’t really understand why. Seeing me like that, it broke her heart.”

After watching Nengi open up, Janet, said: “I didn’t think I was strong until my daughter was diagnosed with cancer. I had to stop everything to be there for her. I’m surprised she remembers so much. She just wanted to be like every other child and now she is – she’s got an amazing heart.”

When Rhys was four he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. As part of his treatment, he took part in a clinical trial funded by Cancer Research UK. Now aged 10, his mum Keely recalls his diagnosis. “You just don’t expect to hear the word ‘cancer’, when you’re talking about your child. The fear never goes away. Whenever he gets a sniffle you suddenly think, ‘Oh my God, have they got it again?’”

On watching Rhys talk about the scar on the back of his head from surgery, Keely also relives the agony of putting her faith in medical staff to save her son, “You’ve got to put your trust in a very, very experienced team to look after your child’s life. It’s taken out of your hands and given to somebody else.”

Izzy, 8, was told she had Leukaemia in September 2011. On seeing the footage of his daughter, her dad Wayne, said: “Izzy was diagnosed when she was two. I didn’t think she remembered anything but yet she says she felt worried. I think she still does worry. Even if it’s just a tummy bug she’ll say, ‘I need my hospital, the cancer is still in me.’ It’s difficult to let go of responsibility, but angels walk the wards of those hospitals.”

Dr Áine McCarthy, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “Each year, around 4,200 young people under 25 years old are diagnosed with cancer in the UK, and the strength that they and their families show under very difficult circumstances is inspirational.  The good news is that today, more children like Bella, Nengi, Rhys and Izzy, are surviving cancer than ever before, and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of this progress. But there are still around 540 cancer deaths in young people in the UK each year, meaning there is still more to be done to bring forward the day when every child survives cancer.”

Cancer Research UK’s doctors, nurses and scientists are working hard to develop new, better and kinder treatments for children and young people with cancer, to help improve survival and reduce long-term side effects that can cause problems later in life. The charity has funded many of the world’s most successful clinical trials for children’s cancer treatments, and continues to support vital ongoing trials looking at improving survival and treatment for children and young people diagnosed with cancer.

This Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens is asking the public to make a donation or purchase a gold ribbon pin badge to support its work to find new, better and kinder treatments for children and young people with cancer.  Pin badges can be purchased from Cancer Research UK’s online shop, all Cancer Research UK shops and all TK Maxx stores across the UK.

You can help beat children’s cancers sooner by donating unwanted quality clothing in TK Maxx stores. TK Maxx’s Give Up Clothes for Good campaign is the longest running clothes collection for Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens and has raised more than £30 million for cancer research since 2004 through stock and cash donations. £26.3 million has contributed specifically to pioneering research into cancers affecting children and young people. TK Maxx is the biggest corporate supporter of research into children’s cancers for Cancer Research UK.

Help beat children’s cancers sooner this September by supporting Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens.