Barnham girl who beat battle with rare cancer to start school

Sarah Waller with mother Alex
Sarah Waller with mother Alex

Moving up to primary school is a big event for any young child and their parents, but for one Barnham family it is a particularly special occasion.

Four-year-old Sarah Waller, a lover of Spiderman and other comic book heroes, spent eight months of her young life battling a rare type of cancer.

Two years ago doctors found a tumour on her liver which was diagnosed as hepatoblastoma, a cancer affecting one in 18 million people, which had spread to her lungs.

She was treated at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, from August 2012 until January 2013, with 11 rounds of chemotherapy, and in October 2012 she had an operation to remove part of her liver at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Her father Jono Waller said: “Apart from one or two days during Sarah’s treatment it was just like water off a duck’s back. It has not seemed to faze her.

“Addenbrooke’s were absolutely amazing. Everything they could have done for us they did and the staff were always so upbeat and positive.”

Sarah’s health problems began when was born three months prematurely at West Suffolk Hospital.

She and her parents Jono and Alex, both 39, spent the first two years of her life in and out of hospital.

But Sarah will start at Barnham Primary School next week with a clean bill of health.

Jono said: “She is absolutely over the moon. She has not often had a period of going to playgroups so she is really looking forward to going to play with other children.”

Jono and Alex, who both work for Suffolk Police in Mildenhall, travelled the 80-mile round trip to Addenbrooke’s at least three times a week during the treatments, and more when Sarah was having chemotherapy.

“We would both travel up and spend the day with her, then one of us would spend the night,” Jono said.

“I didn’t want to give myself a negative view, and tried to be optimistic.”

To help with their travel costs, Jono and Alex were given a cheque from Suffolk Constabulary’s welfare fund.

Although cancer treatments are far behind her, Sarah still has regular check ups including chest x-rays, ultrasounds, and blood tests every twelve weeks.

Jono said since the treatments have finished Sarah has started to grow up and find her own interests.

“She is a very strong-willed little girl who really knows her own mind,” he said.

“It is difficult to tell her off because of everything she has gone through, but she doesn’t make it easy anyway!”