Brave schoolgirl Lydia Shepherd who never lost her smile during cancer treatment recognised with national award by Cancer Research UK
A schoolgirl who has carried on smiling throughout cancer treatment has been recognised with a special national award.
Lydia Shepherd, from Wrea Green, has faced a tough few years after being diagnosed with leukaemia in 2019.
Every child nominated receives the accolade, which is backed by a host of famous faces including Nanny McPhee star Dame Emma Thompson, celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, TV personalities Dr Ranj and Joe Tasker, TikTok stars Flossie Clegg, Lewys Ball and Olivia Neill, as well as children’s TV favourite Mister Maker.
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There is no judging panel because the charity believes every child diagnosed with cancer deserves special recognition. The awards are open to all children under 18 who live in the UK and have been treated for the disease within the past five years.
As well as a star-shaped trophy, Lydia also received a £50 TK Maxx gift card, t-shirt and a certificate signed by the celebrities. Her sister Darcy, aged two, received a certificate too.
Lydia’s parents, Nick and Laura, became concerned following a family holiday to Cornwall in August 2019.
Lydia, who was two at the time, had lost her appetite, was tired and not her usual self.
The GP suggested Lydia had a virus and to return if she didn’t improve.
After being unable to get a follow-up GP appointment, Laura took Lydia to Accident and Emergency at Blackpool Victoria Hospital where a doctor in the urgent care team asked a paediatrician to see the youngster immediately.
Lydia’s parents were told that evening she had leukaemia. She received a blood transfusion before being moved to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital the next morning. Lydia then spent the following month in hospital. Nick and Laura were told she had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and that while the next few years would be gruelling, the prognosis was good.
The following months proved to be stressful for the whole family, with Nick having joined Lancashire Constabulary the week of Lydia’s diagnosis and only being able to visit her at weekends. Laura spent the week at hospital with Lydia while Darcy, who was aged just six months old at the time, stayed with grandparents.
Lydia often became distressed by the many procedures at hospital, and also faced losing her beautiful blonde hair four times. Yet she remained cheerful even when she and Laura had to remain in isolation in a hospital room during the early days of the pandemic after she was admitted with a high temperature.
As Lydia was so clinically vulnerable, the family had to shield for four months in 2020.
Lydia was delighted to join the Reception Class at her local school in September of last year.
She was excited to have her “last medicine” in October when her treatment finished, and rang the bell at hospital to mark the milestone.
Lydia will need six weekly check-ups initially. but is looking forward to a bright future.
Laura Shepherd, 36, said: “When the doctors started to tell us what lay ahead in terms of treatment, I couldn’t absorb what they were saying, and it felt like the whole thing was happening to someone else.
“But we have come through it all in one piece. And now it’s wonderful to see Lydia enjoying some normality at school and having fun like any child her age. We are incredibly proud of her.
“There were some tough times when Lydia was in hospital, especially when she didn’t understand why she had to stay in hospital and cried to go home with Darcy if she was visiting.
“But as she was so young, she just got on with it all and never kicked up a fuss about losing her hair so many times.”
Around 190 children are diagnosed with cancer in the North West every year, but research is helping to transform survival.
Through the Star Awards the charity hopes to shine a light on some of the challenges faced by children like Lydia, which its scientists are working to tackle.
Jane Bullock, Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People spokesperson for the North West, said: “It has been an absolute privilege to be able to celebrate Lydia’s courage with a Star Award.
“Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults, from the types of cancer to the impact of treatment - and many youngsters may experience serious long-term side effects. That’s why we’re supporting dedicated research to ensure more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life.”
The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital is one of the many centres across the UK taking part in ground-breaking clinical trials coordinated by Cancer Research UK’s Children’s Cancer Trials Team.
The Star Awards are run in partnership with TK Maxx. Since 2004, the retailer has raised more than £40m for vital research to help improve survival and reduce the long-term side effects of treatments.
To nominate a star visit cruk.org/starawards