HIS CHEEKY smile is infectious, his devotion to a teddy called “Snuggles” would melt even the hardest of hearts – and he is one of the reasons every woman in Southampton should register for this year’s Race for Life.
Four-year-old Jaime Allinson was diagnosed with cancer in January and is undergoing intensive chemotherapy at Southampton General Hospital’s Piam Brown Ward.
The children’s cancer unit – which has its own school room, specialist play staff and is also a registered charity – sees up to 90 newly diagnosed children and their families a year and treats 150 children at any one time.
As Jaime plays enthusiastically on the PlayStation (every bed has one) he seems like any other little boy.
But his hair loss and the telltale wires snaking from beneath his T-shirt are unmistakable signs of the battle that is raging inside his small body.
The chemotherapy he is receiving, says mum Tina, is so strong it could “floor a grown man”.
But Jaime is responding well and will soon have surgery to remove the tumour on his liver.
“He didn’t like it when his hair came out and he gets a bit low sometimes but he’s quite easygoing and he’s doing really well,” says Tina from Lymington.
“He knows he has to have the treatment to get rid of the ‘bugs in his tummy’.”
A few beds away, in Piam Brown’s day ward, is five-year-old Paige Williams.
She and her mum Becky have travelled from their home in Basingstoke to receive treatment at the Southampton unit.
Paige was diagnosed with leukaemia in November 2008.
The disease has not responded to treatment as well as hoped so she is back on the Piam Brown ward for another six-week course of intensive chemotherapy.
“Finding out your child has cancer turns your world upside down,” says Becky. “We took her to the doctors because she had a cough and was looking pale.
“The staff here are fantastic. We couldn’t wish for better. The nurses are kind and caring and so knowledgeable. You can ask them anything and you don’t have to wait for a doctor to come round to explain things.
“It’s not just for the children here – it’s for the parents as well. It makes the situation slightly more bearable.”
In addition to Government funding, The Piam Brown ward also depends on public donations and receives support from Cancer Research UK.
Clinical trials at Piam Brown – partially funded by the charity - have helped increase childhood cancer survival rates significantly in the last five years.
This July, 10,000 women are expected to gather on Southampton Common to take part in Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life.
Since the event started in 1994, four million women across the UK have taken part, raising over £240 million.
Becky added: “With any sort of cancer you always think it’s never going to happen to you. But it’s something that can happen to anyone.
“Money from Race for Life goes to fund research into all kinds of cancer. If it wasn’t for that research Paige wouldn’t be getting the treatment she is now. So take part, even if you only raise 10p it all helps.”
In the 1960s, less than three out of ten children diagnosed with cancer were successfully treated. Now, it is seven out of ten.
Piam Brown fundraiser and events coordinator Jane Buchanan is urging the ladies of Southampton to help make it even more.
“Like all cancer units we get financial support from Cancer Research UK and we value it enormously,” she said.
“I would ask everyone who can, to sign up for Race for Life – you don’t even have to run it, you can walk.”