September is a month that will forever play an important part in the life of a little girl from Huddersfield.

Five-year-old Mia Bamforth-Duxbury started year one at Shepley First School two weeks ago and will celebrate her sixth birthday on Monday (September 26).

But September is also Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – and Mia’s first anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer.

Mia spent most of last September in Leeds Children’s Hospital, having intensive chemo for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, having been released just in time to be at home for her 5th birthday.

But the good news is the treatment is working and now Mia will be celebrating her birthday with a special Tipi Tent Sleepover Party with her friends at home in Almondbury, just like any other little girl.

Mia’s mum Naomi said: “Mia has coped with everything so well and the love and light she radiates keeps us going. She’s the glue that holds us together as a family and I am so proud of how strong she has been.”

Little princess Mia in January during her treatment

Now, for this year’s Cancer Awareness Month, Mia and her family are urging people across Huddersfield to help more children beat cancer by clearing out their wardrobes for TK Maxx’s Give Up Clothes for Good campaign, in support of Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People.

All people need to do is donate any pre-loved quality fashion and homeware they no longer need to their nearest TK Maxx store.

When sold in Cancer Research UK shops, each bag of items donated could raise up to £25 to help fund research into children’s and young people’s cancers.

In Yorkshire and The Humber, around 150 youngsters, just like Mia, are diagnosed with cancer every year. Each year in the UK around 400 children are diagnosed with ALL, the most common type of childhood leukaemia. Thanks to major advances in treatment, more than nine in 10 children in the UK with ALL now survive for at least five years.

Mia’s parents Naomi, 28, and Jacob, 29, understand all too well the importance of new discoveries and breakthroughs – as well as knowing the signs and symptoms – and are now determined to help raise vital awareness and funds.

Naomi, a conveyancing assistant, described how everything changed last September.

“Mia seemed to be prone to high temperatures, coughs, colds and chest infections, often picked up in nursery, and I was regularly taking her to the doctors,” said Naomi.

“She was always tired and complained of aches and pains, which we just assumed were growing pains. But when Mia developed a worrying cluster of swollen nymph nodes on her neck, our GP referred her to Barnsley hospital for tests.

“It was there, on 31st of August 2021, our whole world fell apart when we heard the words no parent ever wants to hear – ‘It’s not good news, it’s cancer’. Both Jacob and I were in tears, in shock. I was physically sick.”

Mia was taken straight to Sheffield Children’s Hospital where a couple of days later, on September 3, it was confirmed she had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) – a cancer of the white blood cells, which help the body to fight infection.

Mia was then transferred to Leeds Children’s Hospital and started a six-month course of intensive chemo – on what should have been her first day of reception school.

Naomi said: “The medical team reassured us that this was a very treatable type of cancer and made us feel positive that she would get through it.

“I looked up all about ALL on the Cancer Research UK website. I wanted to know everything, get my head around it, so I could think of a future.

Mia on her first day at school

“Although the treatment was tough, and she had some of the side effects including losing her hair, Mia got though it better that we ever hoped for.

“She is doing really well and is now on maintenance treatment until November next year – which consists of a daily chemo tablet at home, then monthly chemo via a Portacath at the Leeds Children’s Hospital. Mia also has blood tests every fortnight, which are done at home or school.

“Mia watched and listened carefully when she was having treatment in hospital and was very much aware of everything that was happening around her. She happily tells everyone she meets that she’s got leukaemia – and that it is a blood cancer.

“She even plays cancer doctors and nurses with her dolls at home, recreating the procedures she had herself. At first, she hated the needles and injections, but now she wants to be a doctor, nurse or vet when she grows up.”

Cancer Research UK celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2022. However, its history dates back to the founding of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in 1902.

Thanks in part to the charity’s work, children’s cancer survival in the UK has more than doubled since the 1970s when just over a third of children diagnosed survived beyond 10 years. Today, it’s around eight in 10 – but there’s still much further to go.

Naomi added: “Before last September, Jacob and I didn’t know any children with cancer, or even that there was a Children’s Cancer Awareness Month.

“What we do know now is it’s thanks to advances in research – and the care and support we’ve had from the wonderful doctors and nurses – that Mia is here today.

“We want to do everything we can to help progress research into future treatments, so raising money for Cancer Research UK for children and young people is so vital.

“And Mia and I have already been having a good clear out at home to find clothes and things to donate. We hope our experience will inspire others across West Yorkshire to do the same. Anyone’s unwanted items really could save lives.”

Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Yorkshire, Nicki Embleton, said: “We’re very grateful to Mia and her family for their support.

“Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults – from the types of cancer to the impact of treatment and the long-term side effects survivors often experience. So more research is needed, which campaigns like Give Up Clothes for Good help to fund.

“We want to help ensure more children and young people under the age of 25 survive cancer with a good quality of life.

“That’s why we hope as many people as possible will show their support and donate any quality clothes or goods to their local TK Maxx store. Not only could they help to save lives, they’ll also be reducing their environmental impact by giving their pre-loved items another lease of life.”

TK Maxx is the biggest corporate supporter of Cancer Research UK’s research into children’s and young people’s cancers. Since 2004, the retailer has raised over £40 million to help improve survival and reduce long-term side effects for youngsters.

Give Up Clothes for Good is one of the UK’s longest running clothes collections and people can donate at any TK Maxx store, all year round, including Kingsgate Shopping Centre and the Great Northern Retail Park in Huddersfield.

Supporters can also help by wearing a gold ribbon badge – the awareness symbol of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – available from Cancer Research UK shops and selected TK Maxx stores during September.

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In Yorkshire and The Humber, around 150 children are diagnosed with cancer every year. But more youngsters in the region – and across the UK – are surviving than ever before.

Cancer Research UK’s breakthroughs have played a part in preventing almost 30,000 deaths for under 25s in the UK, since the 1970s.

As it marks its anniversary year, the charity is paying tribute to its supporters for helping to fund key research highlights such as:

  1. 2006 – A decade-long clinical trial found that giving chemotherapy before surgery reduces the side effects caused by treatment for Wilms tumour.
  2. 2010 – A ground-breaking trial of a drug called mitoxantrone, showed how it could dramatically improve survival in children whose acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) has returned. This revolutionised the way some children with ALL are treated.
  3. 2018 – The SIOPEL-6 clinical trial showed that giving sodium thiosulfate with cisplatin chemotherapy almost halves the risk of hearing loss for young patients with hepatoblastoma, the most common childhood liver cancer.

But there’s still much further to go to help ensure more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life. That’s why, during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Cancer Research UK is calling on the public to show their support.