Let’s brighten Ben’s life

Ben O'Brien (8) at his Ecclesfield home with mum Dawn Sowden.
Ben O'Brien (8) at his Ecclesfield home with mum Dawn Sowden.
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FRECKLE-faced football fan Ben O’Brien may never be able to play his beloved sport again - after being diagnosed with cancer, aged just eight.

The devoted Sheffield Wednesday supporter is facing life-saving surgery for an aggressive type of bone cancer in his knee and shin.

Heartbroken mum Dawn had been praying Ben was suffering just growing pains.

His treatment has been so gruelling little Ben needed eight days in intensive care at Sheffield Children’s Hospital just to recover from one bout of chemotherapy.

Doctors have told Dawn and Ben’s stepdad Dave Sowden his operation next week will leave Ben’s movement severely restricted - and contact sports like his adored football are to be avoided.

When he’s well enough to come home, friends and family are hoping to have decorated his bedroom with funds raised at an event tomorrow.

Dawn, 32, knew something was seriously wrong when Ben didn’t want to play football because of a pain in his leg.

“That was unheard of - and he was literally screaming out saying he didn’t want to go,” she told The Star.

“Being told he had cancer was a shock to hear, but I think all along I knew there was something wrong.

“I kept trying to tell myself this kind of thing couldn’t happen to us, but I had a feeling it was cancer.”

Ben and his family will travel to Birmingham next week for the major surgery needed to remove the tumour caused by osteosarcoma in his tibia and knee.

The operation will take away the sinister dark mass on his left leg bone revealed by an X-ray, but will also remove his shinbone and knee bones, which will be replaced with prosthetic titanium rods.

An event, in aid of the family as well as children’s cancer charity Clic Sargent, takes place at Ecclesfield Primary School where Ben is a pupil - and he plans to be guest of honour.

The fun day has been organised by Dawn’s friend Nicola Rayworth, with help from fellow Ecclesfield School parents Joanne Barnes, Clare Jarvis and Clare’s husband Dean.

Nicola, 27, from Parson Cross, whose son Taylor is in the same class as Ben, said: “Dawn has had to give up her job as a care support worker at the Northern General Hospital because of everything that has been going on.

“Clic Sargent have really helped out with finances when they’ve needed it, and I also wanted to raise money to get Ben’s room adapted and decorated for when he comes out of hospital. So the money raised on the day will be split between the two causes.”

Even after the op, Ben will have to battle through more chemotherapy until at least Christmas.

Dawn said the past few months had been a nightmare, with no end in sight - but added Ben, his electrician stepdad Dave, sister Rebecca, and stepbrother Miles were all looking forward to the fun day.

“Before he got ill Ben didn’t have a care in the world,” Dawn said. “It’s been very hard watching him go through this - it hurts so much.

“But we’re all looking forward to tomorrow and we hope decorating his bedroom will perk him up, and help make him more comfortable when he comes home from hospital.”

The fun day will include a visit from the Easter bunny and a fire engine, the chance to throw wet sponges at Ben’s teachers in the stocks, and an auction of prizes including a Sheffield Wednesday shirt, Sheffield United match tickets, and a signed CD from boyband JLS.

The event runs from noon to 3pm at Ecclesfield Primary School on High Street.