A courageous youngster from Burnley who is fighting cancer, attended a fun-filled party honouring the strength of all youngsters diagnosed with the disease.
Rayaan Zafran, who is just five-years-old, was a guest of honour at the Cancer Research UK Kids and Teens Star Awards party, held in partnership with TK Maxx at a special venue in London.
The talent show themed party gave children and their families – many of whom have missed out on school plays and hobbies such as dancing and singing due to cancer treatment - a memorable experience together.
Rayaan joined 20 children and young people from across the UK who were given VIP treatment during the action-packed day to celebrate their strength and courage and how far they have come since their diagnoses.
They took to a personalised ‘Walk of Fame’ with their names in stars and enjoyed activities including a magician’s workshop and acrobatic skills training, as well as practicing their dance moves.
The afternoon also saw a special performance by CBeebies presenter Cat Sandion, before Rayaan and the children hit the stage to showcase some of their own talents in front of friends and family.
Rayaan, who lives in the Duke Bar area with his mum Aneesa, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2016 when he was just two years old.
His nursery teacher had noticed he wanted to be by himself and was lying down a lot. Then his mum noticed he had a swollen stomach.
At Accident and Emergency, Rayaan started to develop red marks on his legs and the doctors initially thought he might have meningitis.
But following tests Aneesa was given the devastating news that he had cancer.
The little boy had to celebrate his third birthday in Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital – and has undergone intense chemotherapy treatment as well as bone marrow transplants and lumbar punctures with drugs administered via his spine under anaesthetic.
Due to the intense chemotherapy Rayaan had less strength in his legs and it meant he could not walk for a while which was really hard for him. He lost all of his hair and due to so many steroids in his body as part of his treatment, he was also very moody and short tempered.
Rayaan is now on the maintenance part of his treatment and has started school.
Aneesa said: “When the doctor said, I am really sorry to tell you but we think Rayaan has leukaemia I was in denial and total shock.
“During Rayaan’s treatment he had to have a feeding tube fitted as well as a Hickman line to administer the chemotherapy drugs.
“However, throughout all of this, my son smiled through every step.
"He’s my star and is very brave.”
The awards are part of the wider Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens campaign, which raises vital funds for research across the UK to find new, better and kinder treatments for children and young people with cancer.
They celebrate the courage of all children and young people under 18 who have been diagnosed with the disease. Every child and young person nominated receives a trophy, a t-shirt, a certificate signed by celebrities and a £50 TK Maxx voucher.
Jane Bullock, Cancer Research UK Kids and Teens spokesman for the North West, said: “It is an absolute privilege to be able to recognise the strength of youngsters like Rayaan who have been through so much at such a young age.
"He is a true star.
“Cancer can have a major impact on children and young people, so it was fantastic to see Rayaan’s smile light up as he took part in our talent show-themed party.
“Our mission is to save the lives of more children and young people diagnosed with cancer in the North West and across the UK, and to reduce side effects caused by treatment, by finding new, better and kinder treatments.”
In the UK, around 4,500 children and young people from birth to to the age of 24 are diagnosed with cancer every year.
Around eight in 10 children and young people diagnosed with cancer in the UK now survive for at least five years and many survivors have benefited from research funded by Cancer Research UK.
For more information about the campaign visit cruk.org/kidsandteens