Cancer boy Ben becomes bladerunner
3:42pm Saturday 21st June 2014 in © Press Association 2014
A brave young boy who lost his leg to cancer has learned to run on a blade - and set his sights on competing in the 2020 Paralympics.
Ben O'Brien, 11, from Sheffield, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, three and a half years ago and had to undergo gruelling bouts of chemotherapy.
But after a year he contracted an infection in the bone of his left leg which was "basically killing him" and faced an agonising decision over whether to have it amputated.
After thinking about it for 10 days, the courageous schoolboy told doctors he had decided to have the operation.
The sports-mad youngster was determined not to let the setback stop him enjoying games with his friends, and he learned to run on a blade - and even got some running tips from British Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock.
Speaking at the Little Star Awards Party, an event laid on by Cancer Research UK to salute the courage shown by children fighting cancer , he said: "The day has been amazing.
"I've been learning to run on a blade. I started practising about a year ago. I'm a big fan of Jonnie Peacock and I met him and he gave me some tips. He told me it is best to start on your false leg so you can spring off faster."
His mother, Dawn, 35, said Ben was "very brave" in deciding to have his leg amputated - a choice he made by himself.
She said: "He (the doctor) gave Ben his options and said the choice had to come from Ben. So Ben went away for 10 days, didn't tell anybody what his decision was, went back to the hospital 10 days later and said 'I want it amputated'. It was very brave."
Mrs O'Brien, who also has a 13-year-old daughter, Rebecca, added: " We have never stopped Ben doing anything. He pushes his own boundaries. He spent three years in treatment, so three years of lost life and he is making up for it."
Ben was among 20 children from across the UK who attended the space-themed party hosted by Cancer Research UK in partnership with clothes shop TK Maxx at Kensington Roof Gardens in west London.
The annual party is thrown to pay tribute to the courage of all children coping with cancer, and a string of celebrity guests including pop star Elyar Fox and Strictly Come Dancing stars Kristina Rihanoff and Robin Windsor attended to show their support.
Among the other "little stars" was Vanessa Moss, five, from Marylebone in west London, who was sick for two years before doctors finally diagnosed her with the extremely rare cancer neuroblastoma.
After 18 months effectively living in a hospital cubicle and undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she recently received the good news that she has gone into remission.
Rihanoff, 36, said: "I'm so happy to have come here with Robin to support this. Seeing all these kids smiling and loving life is what it is all about. It is really inspirational."
Windsor, 34, said: "It is so amazing to see how special these kids are. They might be ill but they still have this zest for life and they live each day as if it's their last and it is so amazing to watch.
"It puts a huge perspective on life. There are thousands of kids around the country who are suffering from cancer and they need more funding to get more research and get these kids better, quicker."
Pop star Fox, 18, said : "I have had a lot of family friends who have gone through cancer. I'm happy to be part of anything that is so positive like the Little Star Awards.
"This is a cause close to my heart. My grandfather passed away when I was really young from cancer."