Cancer Research Campaign: Sam was nearly four when the doctors told us

Samantha Richens is a lively teenager with a passion for netball. Yet nine years ago no one knew how long she had to live. She was diagnosed as having Wilms' tumour, a type of kidney cancer that mainly afflicts small children, writes Cherrill Hicks.

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."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

    £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

    Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

    £26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Day In a Page

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

    RuPaul interview

    The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms