A Swindon toddler who spent last Christmas in hospital for cancer treatment has been recognised with a special award from Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People.
Samuel Oswin was aged just two when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia on 17 December last year.
Now, for the courage he showed and continues to show throughout his treatment, he 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, Samuel also received a £50 TK Maxx gift card, a t-shirt and a certificate signed by the celebrities.
His mum, Amy, said: “The last 12 months have been so tough and when I look back at the treatment Samuel received I can’t quite believe what he has been through. His resilience and determination is so inspiring.
“We knew something was wrong when a rash appeared on his shoulder and then it seemed to spread over his legs, almost like purple pin pricks and bruises all over his legs, so we went to see the GP.
“Samuel was immediately referred to the Paediatric Unit at the Great Western hospital in Swindon for blood tests. At 3am we were told it was leukaemia and from there it was a transfer to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford.
“At the beginning there is so much information to take in and he had his Hickman line inserted right away so that chemotherapy could start. We were hoping that he would be home for Christmas last year, but his temperature kept going up and he needed a gastrostomy tube to bring nutrition directly to his stomach as he was losing too much weight.
“Then at the end of January whilst still in hospital he picked up chicken pox, we really feared for him and spent several nights in the Intensive Care Unit, as it can be life-threatening to children with cancer. My husband Matt and I took it in turns to spend the night by his bedside as only one of us could stay overnight.”
As Samuel had spent so many weeks in bed, he needed to learn to walk again and regain strength in his legs, which required multiple physiotherapy sessions.
Amy said the support of other parents whose children are being treated at the John Radcliffe Hospital had helped get her family through the last year, together with the terrific support of the charity CLIC Sargent nurses and social worker who helped navigate them through the help they needed to continue to be able to live their lives as normally as possible.
Samuel has undergone intense treatment in the last 12 months, having spent 66 nights in hospitals plus five nights in intensive care. He has received 244 doses of chemotherapy, has had multiple surgeries and lumbar punctures and has received 11 blood/platelet transfusions.
Samuel remains on daily chemotherapy which he takes orally together with steroids, but he has been able to go back to nursery, which he loves.
Amy added: “He loves being able to play with the other children and join in with activities. As an only child it is great that he can mix with others his own age and he really enjoys being social and doing things a normal three-year-old does. The nursery have been extremely supportive in accommodating his additional needs.
“As horrid as the last 12 months have been, living in a pandemic has meant we have been able to protect Samuel and his compromised immune system whilst we were shielding. More people around us are much more aware of the need to be extra vigilant with hygiene and how illnesses are spread.
“Last year we didn’t get to spend Christmas at home or seeing family. This year it will be just the three of us and we are so looking forward to enjoying a peaceful but exciting time opening presents and being at home, with some video calls to family we can’t be with this year. Samuel is so excited for Christmas!
“Samuel’s diagnosis was absolutely devastating, not only for us as his parents but our entire family.
"We’re so grateful to everyone who has helped us to get through the last year - the good times and the bad - all of our family, our friends and the many charities who have kept a smile on Samuel’s face throughout his treatment so far.
"Samuel’s fantastic oncology teams at the Great Western and John Radcliffe hospitals have undoubtedly saved his life several times and for that we will never be able to thank them enough.”
Both Amy and Matt know how important research is in working to develop new treatments with fewer long-term side effects. This will enable more of the 4,500 children and young people diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK survive with a good quality of life.
Alison Birkett, Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People spokesperson for Swindon, said: “Samuel 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 his 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 Samuel.”
To nominate a Star, visit cruk.org/starawards