Toddler learns to walk and talk again after cancer diagnosis

Molly Burnett learned to walk and talk again after the disease left her so unwell that she spent last Christmas in hospital.

Aberdeen toddler Molly Burnett learns to walk and talk again after leukaemia diagnosis Supplied

A toddler who learned to walk and talk again after being diagnosed with cancer has been awarded for bravery.

Molly Burnett from Aberdeen was diagnosed with leukaemia last year and was forced to spend Christmas in hospital.

The youngster, who turns three on December 16, is now in remission and has received a Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award in recognition of her courage.

Molly’s parents, Nadia Hopkins and Lewis Burnett, said the “shock” diagnosis was incredibly tough adding that doctors called it “bad luck”.

Molly Burnett in hospital during cancer treatment.

Nadia recalled watching her little girl go through treatment, saying: “We watched as my joyful, energetic wee girl stopped talking, walking, smiling and even playing while she went through treatment in those first few weeks.

“It broke our hearts every single day but we knew we had to stay strong for Molly to get through this. Molly’s resilience and vibrancy shone through.

“In fact there were times when it was actually Molly who helped us.”

Nadia, a nurse on the adult orthopaedic trauma ward at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, vividly recalls the moment their lives were turned upside down on November 11 last year when doctors at the hospital she worked at explained blood tests showed that Molly may have leukaemia.

Nadia had first become concerned eight weeks earlier when Molly started limping and taken her to the doctor several times after she got steadily worse.

Molly had gone from limping to crawling then to not moving around much at all.

It was thought at first that Molly may have a viral infection, a problem with her hips or have injured herself while playing.

Nadia realised it could be something even more serious while sitting with Molly one evening after work.

“We were singing together then Molly started screaming. She was hysterical and it was obvious she was in a lot of pain. She then passed out. Although she came round again quickly, it was scary,” the 33-year-old said.

“I took Molly to A&E. It may have been a mum’s instinct but I knew something was wrong. After they’d taken her blood, doctors came back to say that Molly’s white blood count and platelets were very low.

“They said they were going to ask the oncologist to come down to speak to me and I just knew.

“I can’t remember half of what I said to my mum, my sister and Lewis when I phoned and asked them to come up to the hospital.

“I just knew that Molly had cancer. Everything changed at that moment. That was us living in the hospital.”

Around her second birthday Molly stopped moving her legs, and later developed an infection that left her struggling to breathe.

The toddler recovered from the infection but was the only child left on the ward on Christmas Day 2022.

However, she was able to make a trip home for a few hours to spend the afternoon with her family.

After tests showed Molly was in remission from leukaemia, the toddler underwent several months of physiotherapy in a bid to regain her mobility.

Nadia shared the “moment of sheer joy” when Molly walked for the first time unaided in July this year.

Molly Burnett learning to walk again after cancer treatment.

“It was a huge achievement for Molly and such a relief for us. Molly is clever and she doesn’t miss a trick. She turned to me and said, ‘Mummy, you’re so happy’ and I was.

“This year we have a lot to look forward to. Molly is excited about her birthday and Christmas,” Molly’s mum said.

Molly will continue with chemotherapy until June 2025 with the family planning a trip to Disneyland to mark the milestone.

Nadia and Lewis will also celebrate their wedding in Aberdeen after postponing their big day following Molly’s diagnosis.

Molly’s parents said the toddler will be at the heart of the celebrations as their flower girl.

The youngster has now received an award from Cancer Research UK for demonstrating “remarkable bravery” during her health battle.

As well as a star shaped trophy, Molly also received a £50 TK Maxx gift card, T-shirt and a certificate signed by celebrities.

Molly Burnett with her Cancer Research UK award.

Cancer Research UK spokeswoman for Scotland, Lisa Adams, said: “Molly is a real star who has been through so much at such a young age. It has been an absolute privilege to be able to celebrate her courage with a Star Award.

“Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults, from the types of cancer to the impact of treatment – and many youngsters may experience serious long-term side effects.

“That’s why we’re supporting dedicated research to ensure more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life.

“We’re urging people across Scotland to nominate inspirational children like Molly for a Star Award now, so that many more affected by this devastating disease can receive the acknowledgement they so richly deserve.”

The Star Awards are run in partnership with TK Maxx, the biggest corporate supporter of Cancer Research UK’s work into children’s and young people’s cancers.

Since 2004, the retailer has raised more than £44m for vital research to help improve survival.

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