A BRAVE toddler who has returned home in time for Christmas after receiving cancer treatment in German has also been given a special award for his bravery.
Three-year-old Billy Marin and his family received the devastating news in September that his cancer had returned, just six months after he was given the all clear.
Billy, from Billingham, was just 13 months old when he was diagnosed with ependymoma, a rare type of brain tumour, in November 2018.
He underwent a 10-hour operation to remove the tumour and 13 months of intensive chemotherapy, which at one point left him so poorly with a type of sepsis that doctors feared he wasn’t going to make it.
But Billy overcame the many struggles that came his way and the family got the news they had been waiting for in April this year that there was no trace of cancer left, and Billy got to ring the end of treatment bell at the Newcastle RVI.
This joy was so sadly to be short lived.
In September Billy’s mum Louise started to notice that he was a bit wobbly when walking and her instinct, which had been so important when he was first diagnosed, came into action again.
Louise, 32, said: “I just knew something wasn’t right. I rang the medical team and said he wasn’t doing good and then at his six monthly MRI scan my fears were realised.
“No words can explain hearing your child has cancer not once but twice. It was truly devastating for me and my family. But Billy being Billy has faced it once again with such bravery and a smile.”
Tests showed that Billy’s cancer had returned and this time it was affecting the left side of his brain causing his face to be paralysed.
Billy underwent more surgery at Newcastle’s RVI hospital to remove the cancer, but as he was now approaching the three-year age eligibility for radiotherapy his consultant referred him immediately for proton beam therapy.
Proton beam therapy is a type of radiotherapy that uses a beam of high energy protons, which are small parts of atoms, rather than high energy x-rays, called photons, to treat specific types of cancer.
Louise said: “There were three places he could have the treatment, but the only UK site, Manchester, was too busy so we were sent to Germany, where we were together since October 19 having Billy’s 30 sessions of proton beam therapy. We arrived home on Thursday just in time for Christmas.”
While Louise stayed by Billy’s side in Germany, his dad Daniel, 36, stayed at home with sister Alivia, 11, and brother Olly, 10.
Louise said: “Yet again we have found our family separated by hospitals and treatment. We missed them all so much. His grandparents were supposed to fly out and see us but because of COVID-19 their flights got cancelled, so we’ve been there alone. To be able to complete his treatment, ring the end of treatment bell for a second time and travel home in time for Christmas is just everything.”
The family now face the agonising wait for his next scan in four weeks’ time to see if the treatment has worked.
For the courage Billy has showed 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.
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, recipients also receive a £50 TK Maxx gift card, t-shirt and a certificate signed by the celebrities. Siblings also receive a special certificate too. Louise nominated her son for the award saying: “Billy has been incredible throughout. He has faced so much an we’ve nearly lost him a few times, but he has remained so brave and all with a smile on his face. This Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award is a small way of recognising what he has been through, and also to show his brother an sister how they have also been so strong.”
Around 75 children are diagnosed with cancer in the North East every year.
Lisa Millett, Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People spokesperson for the North East, said: “Billy is a real star who has been through so much at such a young age. It is 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. We’re encouraging people in the North East to nominate inspirational youngsters for this year’s Star Awards, so we can recognise more children like Billy.”
More children and young people are surviving cancer than ever before, thanks in large part to the work of Cancer Research UK.
But, the disease still claims the lives of around 510 under 25s in the UK every year.
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 Billy.
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.