JUST eight weeks ago little Jesse Hansford finally rang a bell in hospital signifying he is cancer free after four gruelling years of treatment.
It is a giant milestone for the ten-year-old, who has been in hospital being treated every Christmas Eve for the past three years since being told he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia aged six.
His mum Nina, a teaching assistant, put up the tree in November — and is determined to give him a Christmas he will never forget.
Yet while Jesse is at home this year, there are thousands of children with cancer who will still be undergoing treatment in hospital.
It is for these families that The Sun on Sunday launched our Xmas Cards for Kids campaign with partners Tesco and charity Children With Cancer UK.
Cards designed by our young readers are now being sold in Tesco stores nationwide. And with the proceeds from the sales we — and Santa — will distribute presents to children in hospital this year.
Nina said: “Jesse was a normal six-year-old, full of energy and into all sorts of mischief. But in February 2019 he started saying he had sore legs. I thought it was growing pains. Our GP thought it might be to do with his hips or even juvenile arthritis.
“Within weeks, as we waited for tests and physio appointments, he went from running around and being completely fine to not being able to walk more than a few steps. I knew something was wrong.”
Following blood tests Jesse’s world turned upside down.
Nina, 46, from Bognor Regis, West Sussex, received a call to take Jesse into Southampton Children’s Hospital due to acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, an aggressive cancer that affects white blood cells.
She said: “My heart was pounding. He had pain in his legs, I couldn’t work out how he could have blood cancer. They told us there was a test he could have to help determine the type of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia so they could give him the highest possible chemotherapy.
“The charity Children with Cancer funded the research behind the test at the hospital where Jesse was being cared for. It meant his treatment was targeted from the beginning.”
After the charity supported Jesse, Nina is now helping the charity.
She has bought the special campaign cards from Tesco. And we are urging you, our kindhearted readers, to do the same.
As well as going towards presents for kids in hospital, money will be given to Children with Cancer to fund research, programs and treatments to help child sufferers such as Jesse.
The aims of its research projects are to understand what causes children to get cancer and also to develop treatments.
Jo Elvin, CEO of Children with Cancer UK said: “This Christmas there will be many children and young people in hospital receiving treatment for cancer.
It is very tough
“Through buying these special cards in Tesco and donating to Children with Cancer UK we will be able to buy presents to distribute in some hospitals and fund much needed research to find kinder, more effective treatments.
“Thank you to The Sun on Sunday readers for your support.”
Nina added of Children with Cancer: “It is very tough when your child has cancer. Jesse spent a month in intensive care with sepsis in January 2021, he has been rushed in with high temperatures too.
“He’s spent so much time in hospital. He’s had lumbar punctures, countless blood transfusions.
“He’s been through so much and because he missed so much schooling he’s so shy. He doubts himself a lot, which he never used to.
“It’s like he missed fundamental social time with his friends and peers too. He’s yet to learn to ride a bike. He’s missed out on so much, which is why this festive season is so special.”
But Nina, Jesse and his older brother Jenson, 14, are determined to have a Christmas to remember this year, they are all too aware of how hard Christmas can be for families with children having cancer treatment.
She said: “Jesse has been in hospital having treatment on Christmas Eve for the past three years.
“He’s missed all the hype on what should be a child’s favourite time of the year. As a parent who has watched hospital decorations go up in children’s cancer wards, I know just how much having a Father Christmas visit with presents will mean.
“No parent wants their child to be in hospital ever, let alone at Christmas. To know buying these cards will mean children can have fun at this time of year, as well as fund research into childhood cancer, means the world.”
With Jesse just happy to be home and cancer free this December, he is making the most out of Christmas. But he will never forget the festive periods he spent in hospital.
He said: “It’s going to be brilliant being home this year for Christmas.
“But I know there’ll be children in hospital still having treatment, so people need to buy the cards so Father Christmas can take them all presents to cheer them up.”
BUY THE SUN ON SUNDAY CARDS AT TESCO TO RAISE CASH
CHRISTMAS cards designed by our young readers are in Tesco stores throughout the UK.
Proceeds from their sales will go to help buy presents for young cancer patients in hospital and raise money for charity Children with Cancer UK.
Thanks to your generosity, The Sun on Sunday will distribute presents – with the help of Father Christmas – to children having cancer treatment in hospitals across the country this festive season.
We were flooded with hundreds of entries for our Xmas Cards For Kids contest – and these are the three winning entries that were selected to go on sale.