Awards for Seaham siblings BOTH diagnosed with cancer as babies

A BROTHER and sister who both had eye cancer as babies won awards to celebrate their bravery.

Maya Bainbridge was just two months old when she was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma in February 2020 – a type of eye cancer that affects both eyes.

Later that year, when the family welcomed son Oscar, he contracted the same cancer in one of his eyes when he was just a week old.

The Seaham siblings, now two and one years old, were both found to carry a defective gene known as RB1, inherited from mother Siani Metcalf, who also had retinoblastoma when she was ten months old.

Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award winners Maya and Oscar Bainbridge are ready for Christmas Photo: DS PHOTO-GRAPHY

Siani said: “Unfortunately, because I had retinoblastoma when I was born and I inherited the gene, we knew there was a 50/50 chance that all of my partner Dan and I’s children would have the defective gene.

“Of course, the shock doesn’t end when you learn that your child has cancer and know that it’s very uncertain how it is developing in the eye and whether treatment could help.”

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Maya was being treated at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and by May 2020 her parents were told she was in remission and had preserved vision in both eyes.

The family was treated again when Oscar was induced and born three weeks earlier in November of the same year and at the height of the Covid pandemic.

Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award Maya and Oscar Bainbridge, from Seaham

Dad Dan Bainbridge, 25, said: “When we saw Maya born with the gene, we expected the same with Oscar, but unfortunately his cancer had progressed further.

“There were several tumors in one of his eyes, but his was more aggressive and had formed in positions that affected his vision, so his treatment was more intense and over time the cancer developed in his right eye as well.”

Oscar started chemotherapy two weeks after diagnosis and completed the maximum of six possible cycles. He also had a feeding tube for the first six months of his life.

He started laser therapy after a month of chemotherapy and has continued every four weeks since.

Siani, 21, who works at Hays Travel, said: “We didn’t realize it was going to be so difficult with Oscar. The treatment has been a lot more intensive and he has been left blind in his left eye because of scar tissue.

“But luckily he doesn’t know any different and his eye tests on his right eye have come back well, so he’s going to continue.”

Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award Maya and Oscar Bainbridge, from Seaham

In recognition of the courage they showed during their treatment, both children received a Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award, in partnership with TK Maxx.

Maya and Oscar were two of 15 children from across the UK recognized at a virtual awards ceremony.

Hosted by children affected by the disease, it was filmed to highlight the impact of cancer on young lives and to encourage more nominations for the award in the run-up to Christmas.

The moving film sees the recipients walking down a red carpet and breaking out their best dance moves in honor of the award.

As part of the ceremony, Siani shares how important the awards have been to their children and how she hopes others will nominate their own loved ones.

Famous faces including singer and songwriter Pixie Lott and TV personalities Dr. Ranj and Joe Tasker appeared to congratulate the winners and send them messages of support.

Dan said: “Maya loves her Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award and sings Twinkle Twinkle to it every day.

“They have been really great for our family. It was a nice way for the kids to be recognized, but without feeling sorry for them. Instead, you celebrate them and how brave they have been.

“We are so proud of them both.

“Maya has had a great time and despite being so young she has been there for her little brother the whole time. Although her treatment has ended, she will continue to have checkups until she is five years old.

“It is so important to continue to make people aware of what children and young people are going through. It was great to see them both take part in this Star Awards show. It has given us all a huge boost. We hope they inspire other families to be nominated.”

Retinoblastoma is a rare form of eye cancer that usually affects children under the age of five.

Every year in England about 36 children are diagnosed with retinoblastoma.

When a baby grows in the womb, the faulty gene causes the retinal cells — known as retinoblasts — to grow uncontrollably and develop into a cancerous tumor called retinoblastoma. If the tumor is not treated, the cells will continue to grow.

The Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Awards are open to all children under 18 who live in the UK and have been treated for cancer in the past five years.

There is no jury because the charity believes that every child with cancer deserves special recognition.

Each eligible child who is nominated will receive a trophy, a £50 TK Maxx gift card, a t-shirt and a certificate signed by celebrities who support the campaign. Their siblings also receive a certificate.

The Star Awards are presented in partnership with TK Maxx, the largest corporate supporter of Cancer Research UK’s work on childhood cancer.

Since 2004, the retailer has raised more than £40 million for essential research to help improve survival and reduce the long-term side effects of treatments.

Thanks to research, the vast majority of children diagnosed with retinoblastoma survive.

This is helped in part by Cancer Research UK, which has been working to develop a test for the defective gene for children with a family history of the disease, meaning they get early treatment when there is a higher chance of success.

Siani said: “Having experienced retinoblastoma in our family, we know how important research is in diagnosing and treating cancer.

“Sometimes you feel like it all goes on for so long, especially with Oscar, that you wonder if it will ever stop.

“But Maya is about to start nursery in January and the surgeons are hopeful that Oscar’s tumors will finally stabilize, so maybe 2022 will bring better things for us.

“We are so grateful to our family for helping us tremendously over the years. It was such a juggling with the childcare for Maya, hospital visits with Oscar and Covid on top. Dan and I are so grateful for everything they’ve done.”

Lisa Millett, Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People spokesperson for the Northeast, said: “Maya and Oscar are true stars who have been through so much at such a young age. It was an absolute privilege to celebrate their bravery with a Star Award and to celebrate the occasion with a special show.

“Every year, about 65 children in the Northeast are diagnosed with cancer. Cancer in children and young people differs from cancer in adults, from the types of cancer to the impact of treatment – ​​and many young people can experience serious long-term side effects.

“That’s why we support dedicated research to ensure that more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life.

“We urge people to nominate inspiring children so that many more can receive the recognition they so richly deserve.”

Nominate a star visit cruk.org/starawards

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