Belfast Telegraph

Meet Henry Thompson... the Northern Ireland boy who beat leukaemia to become star of festive charity drive

Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

Will you save a seat for Henry this Christmas?

Henry Thompson is seven-years-old and the star of this year's Northern Ireland Children Cancer Unit Charity Christmas campaign.

He wants the public to remember children living with cancer and their families as they book their Christmas parties this festive season.

In December 2015 when he was just three, Henry was diagnosed with leukaemia, and since then each Christmas for him involved chemotherapy and numerous hospital visits.

The brave boy from Newtownabbey completed his treatment earlier this year and it's now set to be his merriest Christmas yet as he is looking forward to celebrating it with his family.

His family is sharing their story in a bid to help others going through what they did.

His mum Helen said: "When you find out that your child has cancer it turns your life upside down.

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"You go through a whole host of emotions; shock, fear, sadness, anger - even guilt.

"It's something you never prepare yourself for.

"As time went on, the fear of infection risks meant we pushed many of our friends and family away from us as we created our own little bubble to try and protect Henry.

Henry with mum Helen
Henry with mum Helen

"We also had to give up our work so we could take care of Henry and his three younger brothers, so there was a huge amount of stress at an already difficult time."

The Children's Cancer Unit at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children is the only place in Northern Ireland where children can receive specialist treatment for cancer.

Helen added: "The Children's Cancer Unit became a second home for us.

"Henry referred to the doctors and nurses as his friends because they made him feel really special, so we are only too happy to be able to give back to them now that Henry has completed his treatment. We have really enjoyed being a part of the Children's Cancer Unit Charity campaign and are now looking forward to spending Christmas together at home again.

"Henry is really excited that people will be using his name and by thinking about him, they are being inspired to help other children with cancer in Northern Ireland."

His dad Ian added: "Christmas has been very difficult for us the past four years with Henry receiving treatment for cancer.

"This year we can't wait to save a seat for Henry at our Christmas dinner. By supporting the Children's Cancer Unit Charity at your festive parties, you can help more children like Henry this Christmas."

The campaign, which aims to raise vital funds for the Children's Cancer Unit, is asking Christmas party-goers to think of those families who may have to spend the festive season in hospital.

Speaking on behalf of the Children's Cancer Unit Charity, Anna McDonald said: "Christmas is supposed to be a time spent with your friends and family.

"Because of the severity of their conditions, the intensity of their treatment or the isolation that has been created due to efforts to protect themselves, that isn't always possible for many families affected by childhood cancer.

"However, cancer doesn't cancel Christmas.

"It's the incredible team at the Children's Cancer Unit that make sure of that.

"When the shops, schools and offices close for the holidays, the doctors, nurses and staff on the ward are still working tirelessly to care for their young patients - as well as ensuring that they get to enjoy some festive magic too.

"We hope as many people as possible will back this campaign and help us to continue to support the work of this very special unit."

To 'Save a Seat for Henry' and make a contribution to the Children's Cancer Unit Charity, you can text HENRY, followed by the amount you wish to donate to 70085 - for example, HENRY 5 to donate £5.

This costs £5 plus a standard rate message.

When booking your Christmas party you can donate the cost of the meal to the cancer unit. Simply speak to the venue you are booking with or donate to the charity directly.

  • For more information on the CCUC Save a Seat for Henry campaign, visit www.childrenscancerunit.com/HenryTheHelper

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