When JJ was seven years old his family noticed a spot on his chin and lip which didn’t seem to be improving. Within three months it had increased dramatically to the size of a golf ball and JJ was referred to Broomfield Hospital where a biopsy showed cancerous cells. JJ was immediately referred to Addenbrookes Hospital where he was diagnosed with rhabdomysosarcoma, an extremely rare form of cancer.
A few days later JJ started a treatment plan lasting 10 months and involving numerous MRI scans under general anaesthetic, nine courses of chemotherapy, followed by five courses of radiotherapy. This involved JJ and his Dad spending time away from the rest of the family for part of his treatment at University College London Hospital (UCLH). This was a particularly tough and stressful time for the family as due to Covid restrictions, JJ and his Dad Peter were separated for long periods of time from JJ’s Mum and brothers.
JJ’s Dad Peter found out about Spread a Smile from other parents going through similar experiences in hospital. So he got in touch and the team visited JJ and his Dad to talk about how we could support him.
Peter said: “Spread a Smile became the friends we really needed. They would send JJ gifts to help cheer him up and keep him busy whilst in hospital. They would take the time to talk to me and listen to my worries and concerns. As it was during Covid, we weren’t allowed to go home or to see anyone. Having a friend like Spread a Smile meant the world to both of us.
Even though JJ is now in remission for cancer and back at home, Spread a Smile continues to support him and also his brothers Tyler and Harley.
“At Christmas Spread a Smile sent JJ a Smile Hamper full of thoughtful gifts. It was lovely as I could tell they had all been picked with JJ and his age in mind and he loved them all. But what made it really special was that Tyler and Harley also got hampers too. Having a sick brother was really difficult for them – they felt on the outside. Tyler in particular felt really anxious about going out and catching something that would make JJ more unwell. Getting the Smile Hampers made them feel included and it was something they could all enjoy together. It was like Spread a Smile knew what they needed and how to help them forget all the pain and illness for a while.”
Since JJ returned to school, Spread a Smile also arranged for a virtual ‘Smile Party’ for JJ and his classmates.
“It was absolutely amazing as the whole class got to enjoy JJ in a positive and understanding way and celebrate his birthday with him. Everyone loved it so much and talked about it for ages afterwards. He was King for the day.
“Spread a Smile has really supported us, helping to make life easier. When we were isolated, we had Spread a Smile and we will be forever grateful for that. From sending an email to see how we are, to inviting JJ for the online sessions or sending out art and crafts packs and the personalised Smile Hampers – they have done so much and mean so much to us.
“Even though JJ is in remission from his cancer, Spread a Smile hasn’t forgotten us and the support is still there. It makes a massive difference to me as his Dad, as I can see the joy and happiness JJ gets out of everything Spread a Smile does.”
Please help ensure we can continue to support children like JJ and their families by donating today. Thank you.