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Little Lydia is part of a generation of kids battling back from cancer

This news post is over 7 years old

Kids cancer death rates drop as bravery of youngsters is honoured

The bravery of children with cancer in Scotland is to be recognised with a special award, as new figures released by Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens offer increased hope of survival.

According to the charity, the rate of children dying from cancer across Scotland has fallen by 36% in the last 20 years thanks to more research and better treatments.

The number of children dying from cancer each year in Scotland has fallen from around 30 under the age of 15 two decades ago to around 20 today. Around 130 children are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland each year.

The news comes as Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens launches its annual Star Awards.

The awards, which celebrate the courage of children affected by cancer, are backed by a host of famous faces including Olympic long jumper and medallist Greg Rutherford, professional dancers Karen and Kevin Clifton and television personality Sam Faiers.

In Scotland, the awards are launched by four-year-old Lydia Yilmaz of Glasgow.

Dance fan Lydia was temporarily unable to walk after she was diagnosed with leukaemia while on holiday in Turkey last November. But what a difference a year makes.

Lydia, who has endured four rounds of chemotherapy as well as blood transfusions, is in remission and has returned to her love of salsa dancing.

Now Lydia has been recognised with a Kids & Teens star award for demonstrating remarkable courage during a tough fight back to health.

Her parents, Selen Yilmaz, 33, and Ozgur Yilmaz, 34, are hugely proud of their little girl.

Mum Selen said: "I call Lydia my dancing sunshine. She's loving dancing again and life has somehow come back to our family.

I call Lydia my dancing sunshine. She's loving dancing again and life has somehow come back to our family

"When your child is diagnosed with cancer you have no idea when or how that will happen. It was traumatic but right from the start we were surrounded by amazing people who made Lydia laugh, gave her strength and made her happy. We are truly grateful to that mighty army of angels, our family and friends who gave Lydia positive energy and love. There have been times that it was Lydia who kept me going. She is a naturally happy person. Even when she felt too weak to walk, she still smiled."

The family who moved to Scotland from Turkey in 2012 know only too well how crucial new developments and breakthroughs in treatments are in helping children and adults survive cancer.

Dance teacher Selen recalls vividly the moment their lives were turned upside down on 17 November last year after tests revealed Lydia had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a type of blood cancer that starts in white blood cells.

Her family were visiting family in Istanbul when Lydia first complained of sore legs and feeling exhausted. Bruises on her body, a high temperature, nose bleeds and swollen gums raised alarm bells so they went to hospital for tests.

Selen said: "That night was the longest night of my life. They ordered a blood test then another one as the doctor wanted to double check the results. Lydia's blood counts were so low that we found ourselves in the special care unit. The doctor on call alerted the specialist who came rushing to the hospital. The doctors were 90% sure she had leukaemia.

“Our family and friends arrived at the hospital and everyone was in complete shock. Lydia kept asking, where's my daddy? Lydia and I had been looking forward to our holiday in Turkey for months. We'd been so excited packing our suitcases and counting down the days until our holiday. We'd been unaware of our true destination, leukaemia."

Selen then had to make a heart-breaking phone call to her husband who was working thousands of miles away in Glasgow and explain how ill Lydia was.

He booked the next flight out to Turkey while Lydia started on the first round of 28 days of chemotherapy. Side effects of the treatment meant Lydia's hair fell out and she was too weak to walk.

Selen said: "Lydia and I both had thick, strong wavy hair down to our waists.

"Before Lydia began losing her hair I had my hair cut. Lydia was very surprised when she first saw me with short hair. She said, 'Mummy, you look like Daddy now.' I laughed it off. After all, what is hair? Short, long, what difference does it make even if you don't have any?"

Just before Christmas last year, Lydia was finally well enough to fly home to Scotland to be treated at the Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow.

Christmas day 2015 was spent in hospital starting her second round of chemotherapy. As Lydia's strength grew she started walking again. By spring this year, Lydia, who in total completed four rounds of intense chemotherapy was regularly dancing for the nurses and playing on her pink scooter. She will continue to get maintenance chemotherapy until January 2018 but right now Lydia is clear of cancer.

Now relatives and friends of young cancer patients and survivors who deserve special recognition are being urged to nominate them for the accolade in the run up to Christmas.

Unlike many other children's awards, there is no judging panel because Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens believe that each and every child who faces cancer is extra special. Recipients get a unique trophy, a £50 TK Maxx gift card and a certificate signed by celebrities.

While the figures released today underline the progress being made in the fight against children's cancers, there is still much more to do. That's why Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens is raising vital funds to accelerate research into new, better and kinder treatments for children, teens and young adults with cancer.

Nominate a child for an award by clicking here.