‘Miracle’ six-year-old cancer survivor opens new Hampstead charity shop
- Credit: Sean Dillow
A courageous six-year-old girl who battled a rare form of cancer as a baby was the guest of honour at the opening of a new charity shop dedicated to eradicating the disease.
Brave Luna Caden, of Platt’s Lane, Hampstead, was given just a 50 per cent chance of survival after being diagnosed at 15 months with a rare form of cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma, which strikes only a handful of people in the UK each year.
A tumour the size of a grapefruit was discovered in her bladder in March 2009, but the “miracle” youngster survived after enduring months of gruelling treatment, including chemotherapy and major surgery.
Luna has since embraced the fight against the disease and last Thursday, the pupil at Naima Jewish Preparatory School, in Platt’s Lane, continued to do her part by launching a new Cancer Research UK store in Hampstead.
Her father, David Caden, watched as she cut the ceremonial ribbon to officially open the new shop in Hampstead High Street.
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“I’m a very proud and very happy dad today,” said the 47-year-old management consultant. “She’s our little miracle.”
Back in 2009, Luna’s tumour was diagnosed and she began chemotherapy. She underwent major surgery in June 2009 and thankfully the cancer did not spread.
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She had reconstructive surgery last year and must still make regular visits to the doctor to monitor her urology.
Reflecting on the ordeal, Mr Caden said: “When you are dealing with a child, the child looks to you for strength and support and if you show them weakness or fear they reflect it back to you.
“I do think you have to be strong for your child.”
Mr Caden said he and Luna’s mum, Monica Ugidos, have encouraged their daughter not to be shy about her experience. “We have always brought Luna up to be proud of what she’s been through rather than to hide it,” he said.
Ms Ugidos, a banker, said it was a shock to find out her daughter had a life-threatening illness.
“It was a very unnatural feeling,” she said. “I think life prepares you for the death of your parents, your loved ones, but looking after a child and fearing for their life is very unnatural.”
Luna won the Cancer Research Little Star Award aged three, in recognition of her courage during her lengthy and painful treatment.
As well as giving its support to Cancer Research UK, the family has raised £40,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Luna was treated.
The first customer in the store was Gregory Perkins, 59, owner of Perkins Dry Cleaners, in Heath Street, Hampstead.
“I bought a couple of packs of Christmas cards,” he said. “Unfortunately I lost my sister to cancer so I know what it’s all about.”