In the run up to Christmas, Jason, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year, is appearing on posters in H. Samuel stores nationwide to publicise Snowy the CLIC Sargent Bear, a plush teddy being sold to raise money for the charity’s work supporting young cancer patients.
Jason, alongside his mum Zuzana, dad Joshua and sister Sophia, aged four, also star in a moving online film for the Snowy campaign where they talk through their cancer journey and explain how support from CLIC Sargent has helped them through their most difficult times.
In February 2016 Zuzana found a lump while bathing Jason and tests revealed he had testicular cancer, which is extremely rare in children. It had already spread to one of his kidneys, and the shock diagnosis left the family devastated. Operations, plus intensive chemotherapy and gruelling radiotherapy followed.
“To be told he had cancer was just so shocking. I don’t think it really hit me until when the doctor left, and I burst into tears. In the moment when he told me my mind went blank, I just couldn’t think straight. My life had completely changed in a moment.
“It was really scary to see Jason go through treatment, it was hard not to fall apart in front of him, but inside I was shaking. As a parent, you just want more than anything to take the cancer away for them.
This is the first time Zuzana has felt able to open up about Jason’s illness publically. During treatment she found it hard to talk to other people about what Jason and the family were going through. She says that people being too sympathetic ‘would bring her to her knees’, and make her cry, at a time when she just needed to keep going. So she chose not to share details of his illness more widely than strictly needed.
“When Jason started to lose hair, I think I closed myself off and lived almost in a bubble because it was so hard to deal with. When I look back at the pictures I see a very sick boy but at the time I chose not to see it.
“We even told some people who asked about his baldness that we’d just cut his hair too short. I don’t think they believed me, but it made them stop asking. I couldn’t deal with people being sympathetic, it made things seem worse somehow. I kept going through it all, but after treatment everything eventually got to me and I had a massive breakdown and cried constantly for five hours.”
The family were helped throughout their ordeal by Anne Badger a CLIC Sargent Support Worker who is part of an independent team at Bristol Children’s Hospital offering emotional and financial support to families in need, and the CLIC Sargent Nursing Team, which visits children at home and at nursery or school to undertake procedures like blood tests that would otherwise require a clinical visit.
“When your child has cancer there is always so much on your mind. Anne took some of those stresses away. If there was anything I needed, I knew I could call her for help or just a chat, and it was so important to have that. Especially as we don’t have any family living in the UK to support us.
“She helped us with grants to cover the extra costs we had while Jason was in hospital, and explained to my husband’s employers why he needed the time off. Anything we needed we could ask her and she’d sort it.
“And the CLIC Sargent Nurses are lovely ladies too, like a ray of sunshine in our lives! They helped us so much and helped keep life as normal as possible for us all. Jason loved them.
“Thank God Jason got the all clear in October 2016 and now we are so happy to share our story and support the Snowy campaign, as we know what a huge difference the money raised will make to other families like ours.”
For every £9.99 Snowy bear bought, H. Samuel will donate at least £3.50 to CLIC Sargent. Snowy is available at H. Samuel and Ernest Jones stores nationwide, and via CLIC Sargent’s online shop: https://shop.clicsargent.org.uk/