SOUTHAMPTON schoolboy went through more than three years of cancer treatment without mentioning a word to his friends.
But a school project about Florence Nightingale and hospitals prompted seven-yearold Hayden Stanley to open up about his experience.
First he wrote about it in his homework and then he decided to go a step further and stood up in front of his class at St James Primary School, West End, and read out his story.
His action has prompted praise for his bravery from pupils, teachers and parents.
Now Hayden, who is on the road to recovery, wants people in Hampshire to help raise money for vital research into children’s cancers by cleaning out their wardrobes.
The Stanley family is supporting Give Up Clothes For Good, the UK’s largest and longest running charity collection partnership between brands-for-less retailer, TK Maxx and Cancer Research UK.
Hayden, who has a brother, Josh, 18, and two sisters – Mia, 12, and Freya, aged one-and-ahalf – was diagnosed with leukaemia four days before his third birthday.
The youngster had no symptoms and the diagnosis came as a shock. The intensive chemotherapy treatment which followed caused problems with his heart.
The treatment also left Hayden susceptible to infections which meant he spent a lot of time in isolation in hospital.
Hayden, who nevertheless managed to attend school full time, finished his treatment almost a year ago and regular check-ups confirm he is doing well.
His mum, Fiona, says: “He coped very well and never complained. “He knows he has cancer and just accepts it as part of life. Everything that he has been through has made him into the caring loving boy that he is.
“He is blossoming at school. He didn’t tell anyone he had cancer but his class were learning recently about Florence Nightingale and they were given homework to write about hospitals.
“Hayden wrote about his experience in the Piam Brown Ward in Southampton General Hospital. He recalled the experience as fun. “When he read it out to the class, that was the first time his friends knew he had cancer after keeping quiet for more than three years.
“The children were very interested and many of the mums said how brave he is”.
She adds: “I believe it has done Hayden the world of good to talk openly about it and I am so pleased now he was given that homework to do.
“We hope Hayden’s positive story will help other families of children going through cancer treatment now.
“There have been scary times. We didn’t know anything about cancer or leukaemia when Hayden was diagnosed.
“During treatment, his consultant introduced us to a 14-year-old boy who had been ten years clear of cancer following similar treatment. That helped us enormously and now we hope Hayden’s story will encourage others to stay positive.
“Thanks to research into children’s cancers, Hayden is here today and is now living a full and happy life like any other seven-year-old.”
Hayden with his family
People can support the campaign by dropping off their unwanted clothing, accessories and quality homeware in the permanent boxes provided in TK Maxx stores nationwide.
Every bag could be worth as much as £30 to Cancer Research UK, which is the leading UK charity supporting clinical trials for children and young adults with cancer.
“We would urge people across Hampshire to support Give Up Clothes for Good and go through their wardrobes, cupboards and drawers, and drop off as many unwanted items as they can to TK Maxx stores,” Fiona says.
TK Maxx launched Give Up Clothes for Good with Cancer Research UK in 2004 and since then has raised £13.5 million for Cancer Research UK,with over £9m for research into children’s cancers.
Around 1,600 children are diagnosed with cancer each year, including around 230 in the South East.
“We want to encourage everyone to follow the Stanley family’s lead and be part of the UK’s biggest clothing collection,” says Helen Johnstone, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Hampshire.
“In the 1960s, only around one in four children with cancer were cured. Today, three in four are cured thanks to research.
We hope to make it four in four.”
Southampton General Hospital is one of 21 centres across the UK and Ireland taking part in groundbreaking research coordinated by Cancer Research UK’s Children's Cancer Trials Team. These trials make innovative new treatments available to children with cancer in Southampton.
For more information on how to support Give Up Clothes for Good visit tkmaxx.com