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At the age of just 10, Leo Barker’s world was turned upside down last June when he was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma - a rare tumour which begins in the liver.
Months later in October, just weeks after his 11th birthday, Leo was airlifted to Birmingham Children’s Hospital where he went into surgery for six hours and came out with a new liver.
Leo is now in remission and his courage throughout his illness has been recognised by Cancer Research UK, which has awarded him a Children and Young People Star Award in partnership with TK Maxx.
Laura, Leo’s mum, said his family, which also includes dad Steven, 44, and big brother Cole, 14, were extremely proud of Leo, who she described as a “true warrior” who has shown “phenomenal courage”.
“Leo has been a champion all the way through, smiling, dancing, pranking the nurses and even setting the medical staff challenges,” said Laura, 41.
“We’re fortunate that we’ve had support from our wonderful family and friends as well as messages of goodwill and prayers from people around the world. But we’ll be forever indebted to the family who lost a loved one and grateful for this gift of life to Leo.”
Before his cancer diagnosis, Leo had gone to see his GP about a lump in his abdomen and constant tiredness.
Later that same day, doctors said he might have cancer.
An appointment was booked at Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children for the following day and scans showed three tumours in Leo’s liver.
He started chemotherapy just three weeks after diagnosis and also took part in a trial which saw samples of his tumour shared with hospitals in America, Japan and Australia to help with research into the cancer.
And on May 13 this year, he was able to ring the bell to mark the end of his treatment.
Laura said: “We’re looking forward to a happy Christmas this year as a family and I couldn’t be prouder of both my boys.
“I’m proud of Leo for approaching every day with a smile and proud of my older son Cole for the strength he’s shown and for helping to keep Leo smiling. They’re a team and are close as brothers.
“I hope Leo’s story will help other families going through cancer. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Now Leo has been thanked and praised for his bravery with a special Star Award which are awarded to children under 18 who live in the UK and have been treated for cancer within five years.
Every winner receives a trophy, a £50 TK Maxx gift card, a t-shirt and a certificate signed by arious famous faces including Dame Emma Thompson and celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli.
Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK spokeswoman for Scotland, said: “Leo is a real star who has been through so much at a young age.
“It has been an absolute privilege to be able to celebrate his courage with a Star award.”