Benjamin Robinson, 6, is looking forward to his first Christmas off treatment since he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2014. The Lego-loving youngster, from High Green, will spend Christmas surrounded by his family after finishing treatment in November.
His mum, Louise, said: “This Christmas will be so special knowing he is healthy. He will be relaxed and able to enjoy it so much more. It is strange because it is almost like we are waiting to see what his personality will be like off treatment. The drugs have changed him, so I don’t know if he will be happier – but he will feel well again.
“He doesn’t really know what it is like to feel well because he was so young when it started. As the weeks go by without chemo he will start to know what well feels like and he will enjoy Christmas so much more because of it.”
Benjamin was diagnosed in September 2014 after complaining of pains in his legs. Louise took him to A&E at Sheffield Children’s Hospital following a bad bout of tonsillitis, and it was there she was told he had leukaemia.
Louise said: “The worst moment for me was in that first week when he had just come back from theatre and I was lying on his bed cuddling him as he came round from the anaesthetic and I just burst out crying. I was just sobbing. That was when it all just hit me and I felt so sad. He has just had his first chemo that morning. I just suddenly felt it – “my kid’s got cancer”. He had only just turned three.”
Benjamin started six months of intensive chemotherapy, which made him lose his hair and left him so weak he was unable to walk. The treatment also meant he was susceptible to infections, and he spent 57 nights in hospital in total.
“Christmas times we were always on edge as we didn’t know if we were going to end up in hospital on the wards” added Louise. “Especially that first Christmas, when it was really uncertain if we would be at home or not. In the days running up we were completely on edge. We have never really been able to enjoy it. It’s just the not knowing. Not being able to plan.”
But CLIC Sargent were there to support the whole family with the emotional and practical impacts of cancer. Louise and Benjamin were assigned a CLIC Sargent social worker, who helped them fill in the lengthy and complex Disability Living Allowance forms and applied for a blue badge. She also helped Louise secure sick pay from her employer so she could focus on Benjamin, and provided a £170 CLIC Sargent grant to help with practical things like petrol and car parking costs at hospital.
Louise said: ”Even today our social worker always stops and asks how we are doing. She is just such a caring person. She’s the only person who looked out for me as Benji’s mum. Throughout everything we went through, everyone was – understandably – asking after Benji, checking how Benji was doing. CLIC Sargent were there for all of us.”
Benjamin underwent six months of intensive treatment followed by two and a half years of maintenance treatment.
In October 2017, Benjamin rang the End of Treatment Bell at Sheffield Children’s Hospital surrounded by family, friends and hospital staff.