Toddler Sam is a real inspiration

sam bradley

Sam Bradley this week

Sam’s mum, Michelle Bradley, recounts a difficult year since the toddler’s diagnosis…

Today (Wednesday) Sam is back on the unit in Belfast for his third round of immunotherapy treatment. It’s one week to Christmas and we are hopeful he will keep going ok through this cycle and be home on Saturday to get ready for Santa.


I suppose its natural to look back at the end of each year and assess the year you have had. For Sam we have looked back at the most heartbreaking, painful and yet inspirational year.

This time last year Sam was three weeks away from being diagnosed with neuroblastoma and we had no idea what was coming. We knew he was sick, we knew he wasn’t picking up like doctors said he would but cancer was not in any realm of contemplation.

Last Christmas Sam was truly miserable, he wasn’t sleeping, wasn’t eating and was extremely irritable which is not surprising knowing now the pain he was in. We have looked back over the year and what he has overcome to be where he is today;

Sam has stayed 143 nights in hospital, is living  with a central line inserted in his chest, has had 36 doses of chemotherapy, one stem cell retrieval, 22 General Anaesthesia, 14 sessions of radiotherapy, seven hours of surgery to remove his kidney and adrenal gland, seven kidney function tests, five bone marrow biopsies, two tumor biopsies, four CT scans, five MIGB scans, one stem cell transplant, 8 red blood transfusions, 23 platelet transfusions, endless doses of blood pressure medications, antibiotics, GCSF injections, immunotherapy drugs, days and days on morphine drivers for pain.

He has lost his hair (twice), undergone regular hearing tests, heart screening and chest x rays. Sam has donated many blood and tissue samples for research into neuroblastoma, and has taken part in a ground breaking  European clinic trial to find the best possible drugs to treat children with this disease.

So to be fair that’s quite a lot to fit into his year. But Sam didn’t stop there, he also:

Learned to walk up the stairs again, and to run, to count to 10, to know his shapes and colours, to speak in sentences, to make a sand castle, to kick a ball, to laugh at Curious George, to sing the wheels on the bus, to blow out the candles on his 2nd birthday cake, to know Santa says ho ho ho, and to be a great big brother to Jake.


We could dwell on the negative, but that’s not Sam’s style.

I am so proud of our son, I’m proud of what he has achieved, what he as overcome and how he has made a difference.

As we face the new year, Sam’s treatment continues into spring 2014. And then we wait. He’s stable at the moment.

His tumor site is stable and the part of his original  tumor that they could not remove is not changing. Sam will be monitored closely for the next four years with scans every six weeks.

He has not made the much coveted NED (no evidence of disease) but he has remained stable and responded brilliantly to treatment. We cannot change the reality that half of children with Sam’s cancer relapse but we are hopeful.

Hopeful for Sam, hopeful for our family and hopeful better times are ahead. That’s enough for us.

This year was made easier by the fundraising done on Sam’s behalf. It meant we knew we could still get him the immunotherapy drugs he needed in America if his kidney function failed to improve.

Thankfully it did improve making the treatment possible in Belfast. We know, thanks to the fundrasing, if the worst happens and the cancer comes back we have options for Sam.

But again more than anything we are hopeful, hopeful that money held in trust can be handed over in four years to help other children affected with cancer.

From Sam and us all, thank you and a happy Christmas and a happy healthy 2014.

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