On Tuesday 9 July, six-year-old Kyna Bedi, nine-year-old Ollie Elvin and three-year-old Connor Grant met Santa at a magical festive party in summer, having missed out on celebrating in the past as they were having treatment for cancer.
“Its been so wonderful that shes been able to get that time back today at the party. Kyna is doing brilliantly now and we couldnt be prouder of her. We have come out of the experience stronger than we could have imagined.” – Samneet, Kynas mum,
Ollie, Kyna, Connor and 18 other children and young people who have been affected by cancer were invited to the Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens Star Awards party, supported by TK Maxx, for a day of festive fun at Santas summer home in Skinners Hall, London, to celebrate their courage.
At the party, the children were surprised by a rare meeting with the man himself in his summer uniform of flip flops, Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses, as he delivered early presents in the July sunshine.
Ollie was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a type of blood cancer, in May last year. He went from being a sporty and energetic child, signing up to triathlons, to not being able to walk. Months of hospital visits and chemotherapy treatment followed, and Ollie was admitted to hospital in December last year as his body struggled to deal with a virus because of his treatment. He missed out on the exciting festive build up and although thankfully he was home days before Christmas, he was too unwell to enjoy the day fully.
Ollies mum, Emma, said: “Christmas last year was horrible – we were so worried and it was far from what we expected with our little boy so unwell, so its brilliant that hes been able to meet Santa today and have fun. Ollies amazing attitude and resilience throughout has astounded us. Hes gradually built his strength up and not let his cancer diagnosis stop him doing the things he loves like football. Ollie is still in maintenance treatment but we hope next Christmas will be much more exciting for him! Were so proud of him.”
Kyna was diagnosed with neuroblastoma – a rare cancer that starts in nerve tissue – in August 2013 when she was just five months old. Doctors found a tumour in the back of her chest, when her parents took her to the doctors after she had flu. Although the tumour had been caught early, it was large and starting to spread to her spine and Kyna was started on chemotherapy straight away. She then had surgery followed by further chemotherapy which ran up to 21 December, leaving the family in isolation for Christmas. Long term side effects of the treatment have affected the nerves in Kynas eye causing Horners Syndrome, where one eye appears smaller than the other.
Kynas mum, Samneet, said: “Kyna was so young when she was diagnosed. It was extremely tough on the entire family and we were so upset that her very first Christmas was put on hold. Its been so wonderful that shes been able to get that time back today at the party. Kyna is doing brilliantly now and we couldnt be prouder of her. We have come out of the experience stronger than we could have imagined.”
Connor, aged three, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a type of blood cancer, just days before his second birthday. His mum, Tracy, first noticed something was wrong when Connor kept getting ear and chest infections that he couldnt shake off. Bruises soon started to appear on the backs of his legs and he developed a rash, so his family took Connor to hospital. Tests revealed that Connor had cancer. Following an urgent blood transfusion, he started chemotherapy straight away. Connor started maintenance treatment just before Christmas last year and will be on it until 2021. He is doing well and his family couldnt be prouder.
Connors mum, Tracy, said: “Connor was coming up to his second birthday when he was diagnosed. When we found out, it felt like our world had crumbled down – I never in a million years thought it would happen to us. Connor amazes us every day, he has been so brave! This whole experience has brought us closer as a family and were looking forward to spending Christmas together this year.”
The Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens Star Awards celebrate the courage of all children and young people in the UK who have been diagnosed with cancer. Every child and young person nominated receives a trophy, a t-shirt, a certificate signed by celebrities and a £50 TK Maxx voucher. TK Maxxs support of the Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens Star Awards is part of a year-round partnership which includes their clothes collection campaign, Give Up Clothes for Good, which takes place again this September helping to raise vital funds to help beat childrens and young peoples cancers.
The Star Awards are part of Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens, which aims to accelerate research across the UK to find new, better and kinder treatments for children and young people with cancer. Around 4,500 children and young people (aged 0-24) are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK. More than 8 in 10 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer in the UK now survive their disease for at least five years*, and many survivors have benefited from research funded by Cancer Research UK. However, there is still more to be done to bring forward the day when every child survives cancer, and does so with a good quality of life.
For more information about the Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens Star Awards or to nominate a star, visit www.cruk.org/kidsandteens