Cancer Research Campaign: Sam was nearly four when the doctors told us
Wednesday 01 April 1998
The Richens live in East Grinstead, West Sussex, and Sam was sent for specialist treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton. "We were told she had a good chance of pulling through, although she would have to lose the kidney and undergo chemotherapy," says her father, Brian. "None of it seemed real. There she was, running around in the garden. It seemed strange knowing she was facing major surgery."
The five-hour operation to remove Sam's kidney went well, although it was a worrying time for the Richens family. "They'd said they would examine the tumour once they'd removed it. There are two kinds of Wilms' tumour and they hoped it would be the one which is easier to treat. Unfortunately, it wasn't. We were told she would need more extensive chemotherapy, so she was allowed home for a while to build her strength up."
Sam travelled to the Marsden for treatment every three weeks. Seeing the side-effects of the drugs on their daughter was extremely stressful. "Sam used to be violently sick several times each treatment," says her father. "Then her hair started to fall out. She had beautiful blonde hair. With her big, blue eyes she was a photographer's dream, but eventually she had no hair left at all. Luckily, she was too young to be self-conscious.
"Her mouth was full of ulcers which made it difficult to eat and the drugs weakened her immune system, so she became prone to infection and had to return to hospital several times."
Finally Sam's treatment came to an end. Tests confirmed that the cancer had gone completely. It has not returned. Sam, now 13, still attends hospital for regular monitoring and because she has reached puberty doctors also keep an eye on her development, to make sure it has not been affected by the drugs. Her remaining kidney functions normally.
Nowadays Sam wears her hair fashionably long and , unlike her parents, recalls little about her illness. "She's getting on well at school - we're proud of her," says Brian. "It seems a long time ago when she was in intensive care with yet another infection and I was wondering if she would pull through."
Life & Style blogs
Coachella Festival 2015: from Kendall Jenner to Alexa Chung, stars and festival-goers parade their boho best
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive - it's where the CIA gets its coffee fix
'Game-changing' new way to fight cancer discovered
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a white stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Russian warships in English Channel 'to conduct anti-aircraft and anti-submarine military drills'
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...
£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...