Thursday, February 9, 2023

Courageous Grays schoolboy shines again in Star Awards after cancer returns

A GRAYS schoolboy has once again been honoured as part of a special awards show celebrating the courage of children diagnosed with cancer – after a year in which his cancer returned.

Mikail Hassan was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin lymphoma – cancer of the lymph nodes and lymphatic system that are important in helping to fight infection – in October 2020.

He underwent six months’ chemotherapy and received a Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award, in partnership with TK Maxx, for the courage he showed throughout his treatment. Not only that, but last December Mikail became the face of a poster to encourage more nominations so that other children’s bravery in facing cancer could be recognised.

It came as a shock when, just a couple of months later in February 2022, Mikail found out his cancer had returned and he would need to undergo high-dose chemotherapy, among other treatment.

A gruelling period followed, including five weeks in hospital for the chemotherapy, during which Mikail was unable to walk and had to be fed by a tube.

Inspirational Mikail, who turned 10 whilst in hospital, ultimately overcame the cancer again and was one of 15 children from across the UK to be recognised during the virtual awards show.

Hosted by children affected by the disease, it was filmed to highlight the impact cancer has on young lives and encourage more nominations for the accolade this winter.

The touching film sees the recipients deliver heart-warming acceptance speeches as well as ‘strut their stuff’ on a red carpet, and break out their best dance moves in celebration of the award – to rave reviews from children’s TV favourite Mister Maker.

During the ceremony, Mikail is seen sat on a gaming chair, wearing a Black Panther T-shirt and clutching a Star Award.

He said: “Hello, my name’s Mikail, I am 10 years old. My cancer came back this year. I had to have high-dose chemotherapy, radiotherapy and stem cell transplant. I’m feeling much better now.”

He finishes by thanking Cancer Research UK and giving the camera a big smile and double thumbs up.

Famous faces, including presenter of Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two, Janette Manrara, YouTuber Jim Chapman, world champion football freestyler Liv Cooke and Tracy Beaker actress Dani Harmer, also made appearances to congratulate the award winners and send them messages of support.

Mikail lives in Tyrells Hall Close, with parents Arzu and Halil, and brother Emre, six, who he goes to school with at Thameside Primary.

Arzu recalled how the second diagnosis came about: “Mikail started having difficulty breathing again and was coughing a lot of phlegm. He started to get pale, wasn’t eating and was losing weight.

“He had to have two different kinds of chemo in the first two months after diagnosis. He also had a fertility operation because we were told his sperm would die and he wouldn’t be able to have kids. This meant having sperm cells removed and they’re now in a lab for when he’s older. In August he had his final treatment, radiotherapy for two weeks every day.”

The journey for the family was easier this time around due to fewer pandemic restrictions, but harder because of the effect treatment had on Mikail.

“Because there were no pandemic restrictions, Emre was allowed to visit. That was quite nice because only one of me and Halil could be with Mikail before.

“We got counselling when Mikail was having chemotherapy, though, because he was more poorly this time. It was really hard to see him suffer like that. We’re really positive generally, but it can get mentally tiring and the counselling helped.”

Arzu described the Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Awards as “lovely” and believes it is important to keep raising awareness about what children and young people go through.

“Mikail was devastated on hearing he had cancer again and completely broke down,” she said. “It’s been extra special to see Mikail shining on screen as part of the Star Awards show again because he always wants to help others in any way he can. Even when we were in hospital, he was trying to get other kids involved, talking to them and writing notes on boards to encourage positivity.

“We’re so proud of him and we hope his star turn inspires other families to get nominating!”

Mikail will have MRI scans every three months for the next five years. He is currently having weekly physio as he needs a wheelchair outside of the house.

He has been looking forward to the festive period, in particular going to watch his beloved Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day.

Around 370 children and young people in the East of England are diagnosed with cancer every year*.

The Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Awards are open to all children under 18 who live in the UK and have been treated for cancer within the past five years**. There is no judging panel because the charity believes every child diagnosed with cancer deserves special recognition.

Everyone nominated receives a trophy, a £50 TK Maxx gift card, a T-shirt and a certificate signed by celebrities. Their siblings also receive a certificate.

Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the East of England Michael Jarvis said:

“Mikail 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 recognise his courage with a Star Award and celebrate the occasion with a special show.

“As we mark our 20th anniversary, we’re reflecting on the progress made in the fight against the disease, but there’s still much further to go. Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults, from the types of cancer to the impact of treatment – and many youngsters may experience serious long-term side effects. That’s why we’re supporting dedicated research to ensure more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life.

“We’re urging people across Essex and beyond to nominate incredible children like Mikail for a Star Award now, so many more affected by this devastating disease can receive the acknowledgement they so richly deserve.”

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 £43 million for vital research to help improve survival and reduce the long-term side effects of treatments.

Group Marketing & Corporate Responsibility Director at TJX Europe Deborah Dolce said:

“As part of our commitment to support children and young people facing cancer, TK Maxx is delighted to support the Star Awards for the 14th year running. The awards recognise the incredible bravery and determination these children show as they undergo treatment, and we’re in awe of each and every one of them. Cancer Research UK is working tirelessly to improve survival rates and reduce long-term side effects, and we’re very pleased to continue to support their vital work.”

Cancer Research UK scientists found the most effective combination of chemotherapy drugs to treat Hodgkin lymphoma and today more than 9 in 10 children in the UK survive.

To nominate a star visit cruk.org/starawards

ENDS

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