A five-year-old Swindon school girl who is being treated for a rare cancer has been recognised with a special award from Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People.
Avaya Powell aged five from Swindon was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in January 2020 - a cancer which affects around 100 children each year, mostly those under the age of five.
Now, for the courage she showed throughout her treatment, she has received a Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award, in partnership with TK Maxx.
Every child nominated receives the accolade, which is backed by a host of famous faces including celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, Nanny McPhee actress Dame Emma Thompson, This Morning’s Dr Ranj and children’s TV favourite Mister Maker.
There is no judging panel because the charity believes every child diagnosed with cancer deserves special recognition. The awards are open to all under-18s who have been diagnosed with the disease in the last five years.
As well as a star shaped trophy, Avaya also received a £50 TK Maxx gift card, t-shirt and a certificate signed by the celebrities. Her sister Elodie, age seven, also received a certificate too.
Her mum Laura, who nominated Avaya, explained: “It has been a long journey for Avaya. Problems began in 2019 when she began getting pains in her legs, back and stomach. She would complain of being tired and looked very pale.
“There were frequent trips to the doctors and we were told to keep an eye on her, but she would often be awake at night in pain and her symptoms seemed to be worse then.
“She saw a consultant for blood tests and we waited around six weeks for an ultrasound scan where an 18 cm tumour was first spotted. Further scans and tests, including an MRI confirmed that Avaya had neuroblastoma in mid January last year.
“It was a lot to take in, Avaya was taken immediately to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford and put on chemo straight away.
“We know her tumour is wrapped around her blood vessels and we have been told that it may be too difficult to operate due to the complexity of the tumour.”
Avaya is on a clinical trial. She is attending the Royal Marsden Hospital in London where she has to stay eight days at a time as an outpatient. She completed her last phase this week and results will determine if she has to go on to another trial in order to reduce the size of the tumour.
Laura who had been working in a pharmacy prior to her daughter’s illness said the past 12 months have been tough. With her seven- year-old sister Elodie, it means having to cope with the problems of living in a pandemic too.
“My husband and I are no longer together and so we have to take turns to travel to London for Avaya’s treatment and ensure Elodie is looked after too with the home schooling schedule to work around as well.
“The usual visits we would get from consultants and support from charities on the ward has meant much of our conversations are done online and face to face time has been reduced because of Covid-19. It’s an uncertain time and the girls miss their friends too but we have to carry on.”
Alison Birkett, Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People spokesperson for the South West said: “Avaya is a real star who has been through so much at such a young age. It has been an absolute privilege to be able to celebrate her courage with a Star Award.
“Cancer can have a devastating impact on children and young people and many of those who survive may experience serious long-term side effects from their treatment.
“We’re encouraging people in Wiltshire to nominate inspirational youngsters for this year’s Star Awards, so we can recognise more children like Avaya.”
More children and young people are surviving cancer than ever before, thanks in large part to the work of Cancer Research UK.
Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults – from the types of cancer, to the impact of treatment. That’s why Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People is supporting dedicated research to improve survival and reduce long-term side effects for youngsters like Avaya.
The Star Awards are run in partnership with TK Maxx, the biggest corporate supporter of Cancer Research UK’s work into children’s and young people’s cancers. Since 2004, the retailer has raised over £40m for the charity. Over £37m of this total has supported research to help ensure more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life.
To nominate a Star visit cruk.org/starawards.