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Happy snap of a truly special young boy

A happy family snap, like countless millions of others taken every year: mum, dad, little sister and little brother. A mantlepiece staple.

But behind the smiles lies a story of overwhelming sadness that is, quixotically, heartrending and uplifting in equal measure.

The photograph is, of course, Oscar Knox, his parents Leona and Stephen and sister Izzie.

The five-year-old Belfast boy lost his battle with cancer last week. Oscar had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma – an aggressive form of childhood leukemia – in November 2011, when he was two-and-a-half.

After the initial diagnosis, Leona and Stephen set up a Twitter account so they could update friends and family on Oscar's condition each time he was in hospital.

It quickly attracted thousands of followers.

In October 2012, Oscar received specialist treatment in America after his family raised £250,000 to pay for immunotherapy.

After intensive treatment, 'Wee Oscar' was finally given the all-clear in April 2013, but the disease returned four months later.

Oscar's battle against neuroblastoma captured the hearts of thousands of people across Northern Ireland and far beyond.

His funeral at St Bernard's Church in Glengormley last Sunday attracted hundreds of mourners, who heard Leona describe her son as "so special".

"Oscar's favourite film was Peter Pan. We talked to him a few weeks ago about going on a journey to Neverland. We explained that in Neverland, there are no sore knees, no sore heads and no sore tummies," she said.

"Oscar had always told us that, when he grew up, he wanted to drive a big green tractor instead of a car and he was so excited to hear that Old McDonald was in Neverland and allowed people to drive his big green tractor if they were five-and-a-half.

"The best thing about Neverland was the biggest dodi [dummy] shop in the world and that you got a new dodi every day.

"When we got to this point in our story, Oscar took his dodi out of his mouth and had the biggest smile and said, 'This is the best day of my life'.

"He was just so special."

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