A six-year-old boy from Sunderland has rung the bell to mark the end of three and a half years of gruelling leukaemia treatment.
Saahib Randhawa, from Ashbrooke, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, an aggressive form of cancer that affects white blood cells, when he was just three.
Following years of intensive treatment, Saahib was able to ring the bell after he was given the all-clear on Tuesday at the Great North Children’s Hospital, based at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.
His mum Gurpreet, 36, said the moment was a “massive relief” for the family.
She told the PA news agency: “We are so proud of how Saahib has dealt with it, he has always smiled his way through it. Obviously there has been a lot of tears along the way, but he got here in the end.”
She said when he was diagnosed in late 2017, she feared Saahib would not make it to Christmas.
“I had to have counselling at the time because I just couldn’t cope with it,” she said.
The family credited children’s cancer charity Henry Dancer Days for supporting them through treatment with their storytelling sessions, which Mrs Randhawa described as “opening up a world outside chemotherapy”.
The family, including dad Manprit, 37, and younger sister Mia, four, have taken part in more than 40 Henry Dancer Days storytelling and pottery sessions at the hospital, with Newcastle-based storyteller, Shelley O’Brien.
“Shelley was a nice, friendly face that wasn’t testing, or giving medicine, or taking your blood,” said Mrs Randhawa.
“She was a safe person.”
Mrs Randhawa said Mia has had to grow up alongside Saahib’s diagnosis, as she was just one when he became ill: “The storytelling has been a good way of helping Mia feel included and just as special as Saahib.”
Henry Dancer Days was set up almost a decade ago by grieving mother Jane Nattrass, who lost her child Henry to a rare form of bone cancer.
Ms Nattrass, charity director, said: “Storytelling is a fabulous form of escapism that allows the young people and their families to be transported into a magical world where cancer doesn’t exist.
“The time spent with the storytellers is a welcome distraction from the gruelling demands of cancer treatment.
“The storytelling helps to mask the treatment-specific words being used on the ward and replace them with amazing adventures that take their young minds on a wonderful journey.”
Now they do not need to spend as much time at the hospital, the family hope to be able to go on holiday together, once Covid restrictions are lifted, as Saahib wants to go swimming in Cyprus.
“I hope people will see the pictures of Saahib and know there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Mrs Randhawa said.