Benji's story - Leg pain in children cancer

July 2014: my child’s leg pains at night

He was given Calpol, but this didn’t calm him! The following day he was taken to his GP who told us to take him to A&E – according to his symptoms, it was possible he had septic arthritis.

He was checked over at the local hospital and told he just had growing pains. I was relieved and didn’t think anything more of his leg pains, giving him ibuprofen when it happened again.

August 2014: Benji was quite often very tired and grumpy

He was reluctant to walk a lot and we started using his pushchair most times we went out. He still complained about his leg pains and was out of breath quite easily. Leg pain in a child is one of the first signs of leukemia.

His personality changed quite a bit. He had been such a happy, chilled-out little boy, and suddenly he was quite a handful! We thought the Terrible Twos had arrived a year late!

September 2014: Benji’s mood, and his crying during the night, worsened

He was sent home from nursery one day with a temperature, so we took him to the GP. Again, we were told to take him to A&E since the GP couldn’t find any cause for his fever. We were sent home from hospital again, being told Benji had tonsillitis.

He was given antibiotics and he seemed to get better over the next days. However, by the end of that week he was inconsolable during the night; again his legs were hurting and again he had fever!

6 am Saturday 13 September: Sheffield Children’s Hospital

We went to Sheffield Children’s Hospital where I was adamant we wouldn’t leave until we got to the bottom of what was causing Benji so much discomfort! Benji was examined by a lovely doctor in A&E who found a single tiny spot on his side and suspected he could have meningitis. Because of this, he had some blood tests.

After a long wait, a doctor came to tell us that Benji was anaemic and that we were to be seen by a haematologist. We were taken to a private room – I knew it was something serious if we weren’t being seen at the bedside.

little boy in hospital bed because of leg leukaemia

The diagnosis – the leg pain was from cancer

The haematologist told us that she had looked at Benji’s blood and suspected he had leg leukaemia. At this moment, my whole world fell apart! Hearing ‘leukaemia’ felt so surreal. The doctor was so calm, however, and very comforting. She explained that Benji was to be taken to the oncology ward where he would have more tests.

We had to wait until Monday until his leg leukaemia diagnosis could be confirmed following a bone marrow aspirate. His consultant was already certain it was leukaemia so decided to start his treatment on the Monday morning by giving him chemotherapy during a lumbar puncture.

On Monday evening, it was confirmed that Benji had leukaemia. We were told he had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) and told what would happen to Benji from then on.

Because of his age, type of leukaemia and the fact that the leukaemia had not spread to his spinal fluid, Benji had a good chance of making a full recovery. We were all very relieved to hear he had the ‘best’ leukaemia. We were informed about Benji’s treatment plan which would take three years, the first six months being the most intense.

Leg leukaemia treatment

Within two months of Benji being diagnosed with leukaemia of the leg, an MRD test showed that he was in remission! This was the most amazing news and we all cried with happiness! Benji was responding so well to the treatment and was proving to us just how strong and resilient he was. We were all so proud.

Leukaemia is a horrible disease that likes to come back after you enter remission. Because of this, treatment has to continue for a long time. The aim when treating leukaemia is to get it under control as quickly as possible. The next four months were very intense and the side effects of the drugs meant that Benji lost the ability to walk. He was very weak and very tired.

By the end of the first six months of treatment, he had learnt to walk again. He was generally very well and managed to keep hold of his hair right up until the last week of intense treatment, at which point he was totally cancer free!

Benji sleeping after recovering from treatment for leukaemia of the leg

Looking forward to his first year in remission

Benji was now ready to move onto the two-and-a-half-year phase of long maintenance. This consists of a daily chemo, a weekly chemo, a monthly chemo and five days of steroids every month.

The side effects of this phase are minimal so he can live a near to normal life. Benji recently returned to pre-school where he is enjoying some normality. He is looking forward to starting school in September and celebrating his first year in remission in October!

Louise (July 2015)

Benji smiling in hospital after treatment for leg leukaemia

Benji’s life after overcoming leg leukaemia

Benji started school in September! He is absolutely loving it. He has learnt how to read and write. He is very eager to learn.

For the first half term of school he had just one day off sick, so health-wise he is doing great. This half term has been full of winter bugs – he has had a few more days off and some trips to the hospital, but he is generally doing well.

Last week he started something called ‘telephone maintenance’, which means he only has to be seen in the clinic once a month, instead of weekly or fortnightly. He is continuing to have his daily chemo and other maintenance treatment. He has two years left of this.

Life has become quite near to normal. Benji is enjoying his childhood again! He is enjoying doing ‘normal’ things, for example, he is looking forward to spending a weekend in London next week which he used to do often before his leg leukaemia diagnosis.

Louise (December 2015)

Benji smiling in car after treatment for leg leukaemia

Benji’s leg leukaemia 2-year update

Since the last update which was December 2015, Benji has continued to do well.  He is now in Year 1 at school. He’s incredibly bright and hardworking and thoroughly enjoys going to school. He particularly enjoys science and reading.

He has only been admitted to the hospital once which was last summer (July 2016), when he had a line infection (in his porta cath) and glandular fever. Other than that, he has been generally well. Obviously, he has picked up a few bugs along the way but manages to fight them himself. Occasionally he becomes neutropenic and has his maintenance chemotherapy stopped to allow his body to recover.

Side effects of treatment are minimal but Benji still lacks the strength his peers have in school. He tries so hard to keep up with everyone and pushes his body to work the best it can! Benji is starting Capoeira classes this week with the hope it will help build strength up in his legs now he is coming to the end of treatment.

Out of school, Benji enjoys being outside and has a keen interest in wildlife. He enjoys travelling to London to visit his auntie and also loves spending time with his cousin. He also enjoys playing on his Xbox on days when he lacks energy. Benji also loves to collect Legos and enjoys visiting Legoland for his holidays as he isn’t able to travel abroad whilst on treatment.

Benji will have his last intravenous chemotherapy and steroids in October 2017 and his last oral chemotherapy on 20 November 2017, which will mark the end of his treatment! Obviously, we are very excited about this but somewhat nervous. As much as we are ready for treatment to finish, it will feel like we have lost our safety net, but we are confident that Benji will continue to live a happy and healthy life.

Benji is very excited to have his last chemo and is looking forward to having lots of overdue adventures in 2018 when he hopes he will be able to go on a plane to Lapland and a summer holiday with all his family to Italy!

Louise (April 2017)

Benji wearing a black hat

Benji’s leg leukaemia 4-year update

Benji has been off treatment for 18 months now and is enjoying life after having leukaemia of the leg. He loves going on holiday and has caught up on his missed adventures. He’s just completed his first year of junior school and will be celebrating his 8th birthday in August. He really is a happy and healthy little boy. He loves school, playing the piano, Thai boxing, swimming and attending Beaver Scouts.

In November he’ll be discharged from Haematology/Oncology and referred to Late Effects Clinic, where he will have just yearly check-ups. Benji currently sees a psychologist who helps him overcome his fear of relapse and general anxiety from adjusting to life as a normal child. He is making good progress and has learnt some good techniques to deal with his wobbly moments.

He also sees a physiotherapist as he suffers from tight tendons in his legs as a side effect of steroids and chemo, he does daily exercises which is helping him a lot. Unfortunately, another side effect of treatment is that Benji lacks sensation in the bottom of his feet, so often struggles with his balance. He doesn’t let these side effects impact his day-to-day life and he tries to keep up with his peers the best he can. Benji’s aim for this year is to overcome physical barriers and learn to ride a bike without stabilisers.

Benji playing with lego

Update: May 2023

Benji is now 11 years old and in his first year of Secondary School. He loves school and is doing well academically. His favourite subjects are Science, Maths and Geography. Benji still enjoys playing the piano and achieved Grade 2 last year. In his spare time, Benji is an avid gamer. He plays Fortnite, F1 and FIFA. He has recently started karting and attends a karting academy every week and has just moved up to intermediate level- something he was very proud of. Benji also plays snooker and loved visiting The Crucible to watch the semi-finals of the world championships this year! Benji remains fit and well. He is now five years post-treatment and attends yearly check-ups. 

He still struggles with his legs, but works hard to keep strong. The main side effects of treatment he deals with are leg cramps, walking on tiptoes and being prone to tripping over. Despite this, Benji successfully learnt to ride his bike back in 2020- something we thought he would never be able to do! 

Benji with courage trophy

How you can help

If you’ve been touched by Benji’s journey, help us invest in the high quality research that really matters which would otherwise go unfunded.

This helps to support children with cancer so they can be with their families for longer.

Donate Now       Fundraise Here

Have you or a family member been affected by childhood cancer?

Many of our supporters have been affected by childhood cancer – either through family, friends or their own personal experience. These patient stories can help inspire others to get involved with us, or can support our media work.

If you have a story that you would like to tell, please contact us by email.

Newsletter icon
Newsletter icon

Sign up to our e-newsletter today

Sign up to our e-newsletter and receive exclusive stories straight to your inbox. You will also find out about our latest childhood cancer research news along with updates on our fundraising events, charity news and opportunities to support us. Don’t miss out!

By signing up to this newsletter I agree to receive general and financial appeal emails from Children with Cancer UK