Sunderland family's 'massive relief' as brave six-year-old boy rings bell to mark the end of gruelling cancer treatment
A brave six-year-old boy has rung the bell to mark the end of three-and-a-half years of gruelling leukaemia treatment.
Saahib Randhawa, from Ashbrooke, Sunderland, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, an aggressive form of cancer that affects white blood cells, when he was just three.
Following years of intensive treatment, Saahib, who is a pupil at the city’s Argyle House School, was able to ring the bell after he was given the all clear earlier this week at the Great North Children's Hospital, based at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, in Newcastle.
His mum Gurpreet, 36, said the moment was a "massive relief" for the family.
She said: "We are so proud of how Saahib has dealt with it, he has always smiled his way through it.
"Obviously there has been a lot of tears along the way, but he got here in the end."
She said she feared Saahib would not make it to Christmas when he was originally diagnosed in 2017.
"I had to have counselling at the time because I just couldn't cope with it," she said.
The Randhawas have credited children's cancer charity Henry Dancer Days for supporting them through treatment with its storytelling sessions, which Mrs Randhawa described as "opening up a world outside chemotherapy".
The family, including dad Manprit, 37, who is an accountant, and younger sister Mia, four, have taken part in more than 40 storytelling and pottery sessions at the hospital with Newcastle-based storyteller Shelley O'Brien.
"Shelley was a nice, friendly face that wasn't testing, or giving medicine, or taking your blood," said Mrs Randhawa.
"She was a safe person."
Mrs Randhawa said Mia has had to grow up alongside Saahib's diagnosis, as she was just one when he became ill, adding: "The storytelling has been a good way of helping Mia feel included and just as special as Saahib."
Henry Dancer Days was set up in County Durham by Henry’s mum, Jane Nattrass, following her son’s death at the age of 12 from a rare form of bone cancer in November 2010.
Ms Nattrass, the charity’s director, said: "Storytelling is a fabulous form of escapism that allows the young people and their families to be transported into a magical world where cancer doesn't exist.
"The time spent with the storytellers is a welcome distraction from the gruelling demands of cancer treatment.
"The storytelling helps to mask the treatment-specific words being used on the ward and replace them with amazing adventures that take their young minds on a wonderful journey."
Now they do not need to spend as much time at the hospital, the family hope to be able to go on holiday together, once Covid restrictions are lifted, as Saahib wants to go swimming in Cyprus.
Mrs Randhawa, who runs an online fashion business, said: "I hope people will see the pictures of Saahib and know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Henry Dancer Days, which supports seven professional storytellers across 14 hospital wards nationwide, can be contacted on 07947 668993.