A brave Lincoln schoolboy who is battling leukaemia at just six years of age is the face of a national fundraising campaign aimed at beating childhood cancer.
Liam Kirk was diagnosed with cancer of the bone marrow last year, and is now backing Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens, in partnership with TK Maxx.
Liam and his family are calling on people from across the East of England to get involved, and they know all to well how important breakthroughs in research are to the survival of young people.
Mum Janet Kirk, 31, said: “Your life changes in an instant, that’s the heartbreaking thing – you lose all control and you are powerless against this thing.
“My youngest was 15 months old. One of us had to be home with him, the other had to be at the hospital with Liam and watch him going through this invasive treatment. We had to keep working to keep our heads above water. It’s been really difficult juggling everything.”
Liam started to get poorly when he was four. He was suffering from stomach pains and a limp and he struggled to get to sleep.
Janet was initially told it was an infection that would clear up but Liam did not get better. She decided to take him to A&E. Doctors ran a series of test and leukaemia was diagnosed.
Liam’s first course of intensive chemotherapy seemed to work but microscopic cells were found and he had another nine months of intensive treatment.
He has also been in hospital with pneumonia and a serious blood infection. Liam has steroid-induced diabetes and is still having chemotherapy twice a day at home.
Janet said: “Liam is used to it all now, he’s had that many injections. It’s all made him very independent and wise beyond his years. His little brother Jack has lost out as well, he was used to having his mum and dad at home and suddenly one of us would be gone. Jack lost all of his security and routine and he was only 15 months old.”
Seeing Liam go through his treatment made the family want to do more to help other children diagnosed in the future. Liam’s blood and cells are sent off to help with research, and he is on a clinical trial.
Liam’s dad Phil Kirk said: “When we got the diagnosis we just swallowed. We felt saddened that we would have to start this journey. It was dreadful. We did a lot of research but nothing prepares you for how it feels.
“I think the Kids and Teens campaign is so important. Before Liam was diagnosed I really hadn’t heard anything about children with cancer. I thought it was an older persons’ disease. We need to spread awareness as much as possible.”
Liam has 15 months of his treatment left to go.
Every year, around 130 children in the East of England are diagnosed with a form of cancer. Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens’ mission is to raise money to find cures and kinder treatments for cancers affecting young people.
To get involved, people can make donations on the campaign page, or organising a fundraising event, with kits also available online.
Gary Young, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the East of England, said: “Cancer has a devastating impact on children, forcing them to show bravery beyond their years.
“Treatment can last for months, or even years, meaning long stays in hospital away from siblings and friends. Unfortunately, some children also have to face living with side-effects from their treatment which last long into adult life.
“With the public’s help we hope to double the amount we spend on childhood cancers in the next five to 10 years to ensure more children are able to lead happy and healthy lives.”