THE BLOG

How Cancer Turns Your Calendar Upside Down...

21/07/2017 14:05 BST | Updated 21/07/2017 14:05 BST

In September 2011 my son, Rhys, was diagnosed with a brain tumour. My partner and I couldn't believe what was happening. Rhys was only four and had to go straight into surgery to remove the tumour - it was terrifying, and from that moment our world was turned upside down.

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Following the surgery, Rhys suffered a number of setbacks and infections, and had to have five more trips to surgery for different procedures. It was one of the hardest times of my life, but things did eventually improve, and when I look at him now I can't believe everything he went through at such a young age. He looks like every other happy 10 year old, apart from the scar he's been left with on the back of his head thanks to that first operation. He also has a condition called hydrocephalus and has a shunt in his head to help us relieve the pressure that this can cause.

The children at school ask him about his scar but he takes it all in his stride and is more than happy to talk about it. For comfort, he often carries his favourite toy monkey Geoff around with him, who also has a scar running down his head.

Rhys' diagnosis completely turned our lives upside down. He was diagnosed in the November, so the festive period is a particularly difficult time for us. We were in hospital for about seven weeks, it was a huge disruption and we had to put everything on hold. That year, we got Rhys home a week before Christmas, and it was the most unprepared we had ever been. But planning for celebrations really wasn't our priority. Getting Rhys better was at the top of our list.

Since then, Rhys has an annual MRI scan just before Christmas. It's not something we look forward to, and has become a very unwelcome addition to our December routine. It's such a difficult time of year for us, as we usually receive the results very close to Christmas, and we can't help but be reminded of everything he went through.

This is why we were so excited to be invited to a winter wonderland in summer party last week! It was a chance for us to enjoy Christmas, without test results weighing down on our shoulders. We were invited to London by Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens where we went to the most amazing venue which had been transformed into a magical winter wonderland. Twenty children who have missed out on the festive period in the past due to their treatment for cancer were there, with their families, and enjoyed having snowball fights outside with Father Christmas, decorating baubles and making snow globes. It was magical.

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I felt so proud of Rhys and in some ways the party gave him an experience which he had missed out on in the past. I also felt very humbled to be amongst other children who have gone through so much and yet have never showed it. The day was full of smiles, we created some lovely memories and feel honoured to have been a part of such a special event.

We've been through some tough times and each Christmas doesn't get any easier but I'm so proud of my son - he's a happy, affectionate, loveable boy and an inspiration to us all.

Keely and Rhys are supporting the Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens Star Awards, in partnership with TK Maxx, which celebrate the bravery of children in the UK who have been diagnosed with cancer. To nominate someone to receive an award or to find out more about the campaign, visit: www.cruk.org/kidsandteens