A 9-year-old patient has thanked friends and family in a heart-warming speech to mark the end of his cancer treatment at St George’s.

In December 2015, Roberto was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) – a type of cancer in which the bone marrow releases large numbers of white blood cells, known as blast cells, before they are fully developed.

At a celebration at Roberto’s home in Wimbledon, he said: “I would like to say thank you to everyone for helping me have courage these past three years, especially my friends from school. I would also like to thank everyone for helping fundraise for Samuel’s Charity that help people like me.”

Roberto celebrated with a bell shaped cake; similar to the bell he rang at St George’s to mark the end of his treatment on 6 May 2019. His parents, Clare and Matteo, discovered Roberto had ALL after noticing his glands were swollen.

Clare said: “He had funny looking swollen glands that went further down his neck than you would expect. As a parent, you have this nagging instinct that something isn’t quite right.

“We took him to our GP who ran blood tests as a precaution, but a few days later they still hadn’t gone down. They ran further tests and that’s when we knew it was quite clearly something more serious.”

Roberto was referred to St George’s for specialist treatment. ALL is an aggressive condition and develops quickly if left untreated.

Clare said: “We remember vividly the shock of those first few days in December when Roberto was diagnosed. We hadn’t even thought he was unwell.

“We asked if we could take him home for Christmas. At that stage we didn’t understand how critical the first day was; once you start the treatment that’s it, it’s very intensive.”

Following three years of chemotherapy treatment to destroy the leukaemia cells in Roberto’s bone marrow and central nervous system, he is now in remission.

Roberto’s parents are sharing their experiences to raise awareness of childhood cancer and to help other families going through the same.

Clare said: “We don’t talk enough about the people that survive cancer. The stories you hear are always about those who’ve died and there are even fewer stories about childhood cancer.

“It’s tough but I’d encourage parents to be gentle on themselves, trust their parental instincts and focus on thriving as a family.

“We decided that we were going to live life to the full throughout Roberto’s treatment. We made time for days out as a family; we’d go to Brighton for the day and live like it wasn’t happening.

“Striving for normality is hard but it’s worth it. I don’t want to belittle how hard or scary it is because there is no right response.”

Clare and Matteo say the support at St George’s has been ‘phenomenal’. In a letter to the hospital’s paedtriatic team, the couple wrote:

“You have shown you understand that childhood cancer affects the family not just the child and that surviving is not enough without thriving as an individual and a family.

“The whole process can be very lonely, as so few people have walked in your shoes and each individual child responds differently to both the physical and mental challenges the cancer poses.

“The support at St George’s has been phenomenal and it really felt like all the stops were pulled out to make the journey less damaging for Roberto.”

For the next five years, Roberto will continue to visit St George’s for regular health checks. Dr Emma Sage, Consultant Paediatrician at St George’s said: “Our emphasis is on living life beyond cancer, but recognising that it’s important to monitor.

“Childhood cancer is a terrifying diagnosis, but it’s treatable; it’s about early recognition and diagnosis. There is also a whole team of people at St George’s who are here to help families with that journey. It’s not just doctors and nurses; it’s also play specialists, dieticians, psychologists and a team of community nurses. We look after not just the patient, but their family too.”

Notes to editors

For press enquiries, please contact Sophia Alipour, Media Officer, via sophia.alipour@stgeorges.nhs.uk or 020 8725 2185.