Luton teen diagnosed with cancer at just 4 years old receives Star Award from Cancer Research UK

Rhys KiernanRhys Kiernan
Rhys Kiernan

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He had six surgeries in just six weeks

A Luton teenager celebrating a decade of being cancer free has been honoured as part of a special awards show.

Rhys Kiernan, 15, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in November 2011 when he was just four years old. The brave youngster had six surgeries in just six weeks, and even took part in a Cancer Research UK clinical trial.

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In recognition of his bravery, Rhys received a Cancer Research UK Children & Young People Star Award, in partnership with TK Maxx.

Rhys, who hopes to become a computer game developer, was one of 15 children from across the UK recognised during the virtual awards show. Hosted by children affected by the disease, it was filmed to highlight the impact cancer has on young lives and encourage more nominations for the accolade.

As part of the ceremony, Rhys introduced himself and explained his cancer diagnosis and what the award means to him, as well as making an appearance on the red carpet.

Famous faces, including Children’s TV presenter Phil Gallagher from Mister Maker – a star in this year’s panto Cinderella at Dunstable’s The Grove Theatre – appeared to congratulate the winners and send them messages of support.

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Rhys’ mum, Keely, nominated him for the award. She said: “Receiving their very own award is proof that they really are a star and how phenomenal they are for getting through their treatment.”

Rhys Kiernan aged 4, receives treatment in hospital for a brain tumourRhys Kiernan aged 4, receives treatment in hospital for a brain tumour
Rhys Kiernan aged 4, receives treatment in hospital for a brain tumour

The mum of three boys can vividly remember the day Rhys was diagnosed with a brain tumour after weeks of headaches and vomiting.

She said: “I can still recall the little room we were sat in with the nurses. Being told your son has cancer are words you never expect to hear. His dad almost passed out and my feet didn’t touch the floor. It was just awful.

“All of a sudden you have no control over anything. You have to put your child’s life into the hands of the doctors and nurses and trust them to take care of them. It was one of the scariest feelings and very hard to handle.

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“We were told Rhys had a slow growing, low grade brain tumour called a glioma. He had life-saving surgery to remove it but afterwards we found out he had some fluid on the brain. He had another operation to fit a shunt, then he was diagnosed with meningitis and in total the complications meant he had six surgeries in six weeks.”

Rhys received six operations in six weeksRhys received six operations in six weeks
Rhys received six operations in six weeks

Keely added: “Now Rhys is ten years clear of his cancer and we like to think that our story gives people hope. He was so poorly when he was four but now he’s 15 and we feel very lucky that he’s come through it and is well.

“He really enjoyed taking part in the Star Awards video and while he does talk openly about his cancer, I’m not sure how much he really understands about what he’s been through. I’ve kept a scrapbook of everything so he can look back on it when he’s older and see just how far he’s come.

“He’s an inspiration and I couldn’t wish for him to be a nicer, more kind-hearted young man.”