Four-year-old Joshua takes part in RBC Race for the Kids to help beat childhood cancer

1 Sep 2023, 12:07 p.m.

Joshua wearing sunglasses, in the garden at the Sight and Sound Centre

Last summer, four-year-old Joshua started treatment at GOSH for rhabdomyosarcoma. Fast-forward a year, and today Joshua is doing well. This October, he’ll be taking part in our family fun run, RBC Race for the Kids, alongside dad Chris and mum Mariko.

To mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Joshua’s dad, Chris, tells us more about their experience.

Joshua's first weekend at GOSH

“Within a few days, we were seen at GOSH and we met Dr Mette Jorgensen,” Chris says. “She told us that it was a rhabdomyosarcoma - a rare type of sarcoma - and that there was a protocol for the treatment, and Joshua would follow this set treatment of chemotherapy and then potentially proton beam radiotherapy.

“We decided we wanted to start as soon as possible, so Joshua literally started treatment that weekend.”

During this first stay at GOSH, Chris remembers Joshua “counting the number of animals painted on the walls” in the ward they were staying on.

He also remembers meeting many nurses and specialists who were “so reassuring”.

“Our clinical nurse specialist just said to us, ‘look, this is what we do. This is what we do every day’.

“At that time, I think that’s really what we needed. The world was crumbling around us but at least we knew what was going on, and that made a huge difference.”

Visting GOSH every three weeks

Joshua had three different types of chemotherapy at GOSH, as well as proton beam therapy at UCLH.

When he received one of the chemotherapies that required fluids, Joshua and his mum would stay at GOSH whilst Chris travelled to meet them each day.

“I don’t think Joshua knew there was anything wrong,” Chris says. “Every time we visited GOSH, whether it was to go to Safari [ward] to have bloods or to stay on the ward for chemotherapy, it wasn’t like we were going to hospital, we were just having a trip to GOSH.”

Joshua was also treated at the Sight and Sound Centre, which is a purpose-built home for children and young people with sight and hearing loss.

“There’s a garden and there’s lots of places for Joshua to run around,” Chris says of the centre. “It was really cool as it was something a bit different.”

Support from the Play team

The Play team, funded by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH Charity), supports 300-400 children and families each day. They let children be children, helping them to feel comfortable and relaxed, while working with them to prepare for life-saving treatment and surgery.

“Every single time we went to GOSH we saw the Play team; Joshua always picks the activities and games he wants to play,” Chris says.

“The Play team made a huge difference. It meant me and my wife could have that five minutes to go to the kitchen and make a sandwich, or just have a moment together.

“You don’t want to cry in front of Joshua, and you don’t want to speak about the more serious things in front of him. He was only three or four, but he hears everything. It made a huge difference to have someone always there who could come play with him.”

Joshua being with his dad Chris and mum Mariko

Joshua with his parents ringing the end of treatment bell. Photograph taken February 2023.

Ringing the end of treatment bell

Joshua’s treatment went well, and he rang his end of treatment bell on Safari ward in February this year.

“Joshua is doing great! I don’t think anyone thought the treatment would go as well as it did,” Chris says.

“He had his first set of scans in May, and they came back clear. Joshua still has to go back to GOSH every three months to have those scans, but so far, so good.

“He just sees visiting GOSH as a trip to somewhere fun, it’s not somewhere that he worries about going.”

“We always said that we would do whatever we could to help GOSH and the charities which helped Joshua. When we received an email about RBC Race for the Kids, I thought it was a really good opportunity for us.”

Thinking about taking part too? All the money raised will go towards building a new world-class Children’s Cancer Centre at GOSH.