Sam on the swing

When Sam was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at just three years old, his whole family pulled together to help him beat this aggressive childhood cancer. His mum, Beverley, tells their story:

“Sam’s ordeal started on the 30 September 2007, aged just three-years-old. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. He sat on my lap for a hug, then as he jumped down his legs went wobbly – as if he was drunk.

The next morning we went to the GP and were referred to the children’s hospital for a brain scan, which came back fine. By this time Sam had reverted back to crawling rather than walking. He had all kinds of tests over the next five months to try and get a diagnosis.”

It’s cancer

“When the diagnosis of neuroblastoma came on 1 February 2008, I was devastated. We were told that neuroblastoma is a cancer of the nervous system that causes tumours and Sam was at stage 4 neuroblastoma, which meant it was in his bone marrow and very serious.Sam Harwood on his father's shoulders

Sam was started on chemotherapy and our lives revolved around being in hospital for a couple of days in London then home to Sussex for a few more before repeating the cycle.

“It is so important that Sparks is raising funds to undertake medical research into this silent cancer, which is so hard to detect, diagnose, treat and overcome.”

We tried to keep life as normal as possible for Charlotte, our daughter. Friends rallied round her for sleepovers and we made sure she kept up her gymnastics. My husband, Pete, often looked at it as a hurdles race – you take it one step at a time.

Sam needed high-dose chemotherapy. This meant six weeks in an isolation ward as he was prone to infections, which could have serious repercussions for him. During this time my husband and daughter moved into my parents’ house as it seemed the easiest way of keeping Charlotte settled at home.”

Our little fighter

“Sam did get an infection and was transferred to intensive care, put on a ventilator and fed through a tube. This was the most worrying time for us during his treatment but he is a real little fighter.

We were very lucky – the chemo worked well and Sam did not need surgery to remove his primary tumour. But he did need some difficult radiotherapy, and made us so proud when having the treatment. Somehow he kept his spirits up and was an inspiration to all of the other patients around him.

Eventually, on 18 March 2009, we were told that Sam didn’t need any more treatment, just regular checkups.

“We remember going home with such big smiles that people must have thought we’d won the lottery – but this was much better.”

We stopped on the way home and bought as many bottles of champagne as we could carry for the family and friends who had supported us for the last year. We just wanted to shout it to everyone.

At the moment we consider ourselves very lucky that Sam has done so well.  He is now four years off treatment and doing well.

This is why it is crucial for continued research to be done, so the success rate in treating neuroblastoma can equal that of other cancer treatments. It is so important that Sparks is raising funds to undertake medical research into this silent cancer, which is so hard to detect, diagnose, treat and overcome.

My husband Pete ran the Brighton Marathon in 2011 to help Sparks fund further research into neuroblastoma. My daughter Charlotte also ran the mini mile to show her support, and we are so proud of both of them. Now Sam is full of energy and runs everywhere, he joined the local football team last year. These days it’s us who have trouble keeping up with him.”

Find out about our research project looking at using modified stem cells to treat neuroblastoma.

Your donations help children like Sam.