At 14-years-old in 2012, athletics enthusiast Niamh Hardy had the world at her feet – but in a cruel twist, her sporting dreams were nearly crushed.
Niamh’s world was turned upside down as she was diagnosed with cancer in her abdomen and her athletics ambitions were put on hold.
“It’s been a hard few years,” said Niamh, now 17.
“It was a complete shock when I was diagnosed as I was a full time sports girl – doing athletics most nights of the week.
But after a gruelling fight, Niamh, from Birley in Sheffield, is back to full fitness after a marathon journey of radiotherapy and endless visits to Weston Park Hospital.
“I told myself I’d get through it by keeping a smile on my face throughout and here I am today back to competing and living a very happy and exciting life,” she added.
After getting the all-clear Niamh wasted no time getting back on to the track.
She said: “Once my cancer ordeal was over I was determined to get straight back into doing the things I’d always loved.
“I’d always wanted to be like Jessica Ennis-Hill but now I am just glad and thankful that I’m able to get back out on the track again.
“I want now, more than anything, for people in Sheffield and beyond to recognise what an important role the cancer charity at Weston Park Hospital plays in funding ground-breaking new treatments for patients like me.”
Niamh was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a rare cancer that develops from nerve cells called neuroblasts. It affects around 100 children each year and is most common in young children.
Niamh started on an intense course of chemotherapy followed by surgery and stem cell treatment at the Sheffield Children’s Hospital and went on to have radiotherapy at Weston Park Hospital.
Nicki Lee, clinical specialist radiographer, specialises in the treatment and care of children receiving radiotherapy at Weston Park Hospital.
She said: “Niamh was a very rare case as she was much older than the majority of patients who are diagnosed with neuroblastoma.
“Nevertheless, she responded positively to treatment and her inspiring approach throughout was truly admirable, despite the often difficult circumstances she found herself in.”
Charity fundraising manager Helen Gentle said: “Niamh is a true inspiration to us all and proof that patients can lead a fulfilling and active lifestyle after a cancer diagnosis.”
“Thankfully, Niamh’s story is a positive one, but sadly many young patients with a diagnosis of neuroblastoma are facing a very different outcome.
“We need funds to enable vital research work to continue so that we can gain a greater understanding of the behaviour of cancer cells and help develop new treatments to fight cancer which currently affect the lives of over 75,000 people in our region.”