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Chef Jean-Christophe Novelli cooks along with young cancer survivor

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by Cancer Research UK | News

4 December 2020

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Edith and her mum Kathryn.
Seven year old Edith celebrates her first Christmas since completing treatment for leukaemia with a virtual cooking session with chef Jean-Christophe Novelli to launch the Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Awards.

Seven-year-old cancer survivor, Edith Coombes, from Southampton, got an unforgettable Christmas treat this month when she received a virtual cooking masterclass from world-renowned chef Jean-Christophe Novelli. 

The cook-along launched this year’s Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Awards.  

Run in partnership with TK Maxx, the Star Awards celebrates the courage of children aged up to 18 who have been diagnosed with cancer. Edith, who has received a Star Award herself, embraced each stage of the cook-along, impressing the chef with her egg-cracking skills and mastering the all-important pancake flip, whilst cheekily snacking on the ingredients as she went. 

Jean-Christophe, whose son Valentino was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer, showed cooking enthusiast Edith how to put a festive twist on her favourite pancakes. 

“It was so much fun meeting Christophe and making the pancakes! My favourite part was when I got to eat everything. I put some in the fridge for later with a note telling my dad not to eat them or I’ll be very upset. I can’t wait to have fun this Christmas without treatment and make my pancakes again.”  

An extra special Christmas

Edith was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in March 2018, not long after starting in reception at school. She was admitted to hospital and began intensive chemotherapy, followed by repeated hospital stays throughout her treatment. Christmas was disrupted two years in a row by her chemotherapy.  

Edith completed her 26 months of treatment in May of this year, whilst shielding from the pandemic, so it was an extra special treat to get the chance to cook with the nation’s favourite French chef. The family had to replace the ringing of the bell on the hospital ward with a makeshift banging of pots and pans, on a video call with family and friends. 

“We are so proud of her, especially when we stop and think what she has been through. You never expect cancer to happen to your family and especially not to your child. When it does it comes as the biggest shock – it completely derails you. This will be our first Christmas in many years that Edith won’t be having chemotherapy. No parent wants to wake their child up on Christmas Day and tell them it’s time to take your chemo. It will make this year extra special for us and we are really looking forward to a nice, normal family celebration.”  Kathryn, Edith’s mum. 

Jean-Christophe praised the young star’s cooking skills as he reflected on his own experience with his son. “We’ve been through these terrible times ourselves. Sometimes you can’t communicate too much with people who are going through such a traumatic time and so we wondered what we could do instead,” he says.  

At just 6 weeks old Valentino was diagnosed with advanced (stage 4) neuroblastoma, a rare cancer, after his mum Michelle noticed a strange lump on his neck. Surgery to remove the lump proved too risky and he was placed on a course of aggressive chemotherapy treatment for 6 months.  

Jean-Christophe said when he we heard about the Star Awards, he had no hesitation getting involved immediately. “To see Edith have fun and try something like this was beautiful. I wanted to share my festive pancakes recipe, so as many Stars as possible can try it themselves from home this Christmas.” 

Nominations for the Star Awards are now open and Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People is calling on families of young people affected by cancer from across the UK to nominate them in the run up to Christmas. 

Every eligible child who is nominated receives a unique trophy, a £50 TK Maxx gift card, a t-shirt and a certificate signed by celebrities supporting the campaign. Their siblings also receive a certificate.