Two children from the same family have received prestigious awards in recognition of the courage and bravery they displayed while one of them battled against an extremely rare form of cancer.
On Christmas Eve 2014 Tyraah Bell-Lama from Tilehurst, Reading, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a cancer which affects the retina of children predominantly under six years old.
Tyraah was only eight months old at the time and underwent intensive ongoing treatment at The Royal London Hospital to combat tumours in her right eye.
In some cases retinoblastoma can lead to children losing one, or both, of their eyes. Fortunately this didn’t happen to Tyraah thanks largely to the cancer being spotted at a relatively early stage. However, her progress continues to be monitored closely by doctors in London on a regular basis.
Despite the day to day challenges which face Tyraah, who is now three, she strives to live life to the full with help from her seven-year old brother Jaiden who provides his younger sister – not to mention the entire family – with unrelenting support.
In recognition of Tyraah and Jaiden’s outstanding efforts in the face of adversity both children have been named as CHECT Champions by the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT), receiving medals and framed certificates this week.
The CHECT Champion awards aim to recognise the courage, resilience and patience shown by all children affected by retinoblastoma (often referred to as Rb for short) throughout treatment and beyond.
“Tyraah’s unbelievable attitude and strength have been the light at the end of the tunnel through some pretty dark times,” says proud mum Jade Bell. “The fact that she took her very first steps in hospital at a time when she was having chemotherapy says everything about what a courageous little girl she is.
“It all started when I spotted a glow in Tyraah’s right eye. I also realised that although one eye was looking directly at me, the other one was drifting. I booked an appointment straight away with my doctor, and it’s just as well that I did. He realised immediately how serious it was and referred me to hospital. If we hadn’t acted so quickly, then the cancer would have continued spreading and she would probably have lost her eye or even her life.
“Although it is Tyraah who has suffered physically, the past three years haven’t been easy for Jaiden either. He’s missed out on so much throughout all the operations and hospital visits, having to stay away from home with other members of the family. In many ways he’s grown up a lot quicker than other children his age. And yet he never complains. In fact he’s a tower of strength, helping out however he can. He loves his little sister. I am just so proud of both of them.”