Dog lover, 8, named Child of Courage at the Pride of Britain Awards after she competed in Crufts while having chemotherapy for rare cancer, has been to ‘hell and back’, her mother reveals
- Freya Harris from Lincolnshire achieved second place at the dog competition
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Pride of Britain’s ‘Child of Courage’ award winner went through ‘hell and back’ after being diagnosed with a rare cancer.
Eight-year-old Freya Harris, from Horncastle in Lincolnshire, and her mother Gemma, appeared on ITV’s Lorraine this morning after she was recognised at the ceremony, hosted by the Daily Mirror.
The cancer warrior was recognised after she won second place at Crufts with her Australian Shepherd dog, Echo, even though she was undergoing chemotherapy for kidney cancer at the time.
Since taking part in the annual dog competition, the eight-year-old has attended the glitzy award ceremony and introduced her canine to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, which involved ‘lots of kisses’ on Echo’s behalf.
But Gemma revealed that her daughter’s journey did not always look positive, and at one point, she prepared for the very worst.
Freya Harris (pictured left), her dog Echo (centre) and mother Gemma (pictured right) featured on Lorraine after winning a Pride of Britain award
When she was seven years old, Freya was diagnosed with Wilms’ Tumour, a form of kidney cancer that affects around 80 children in the UK each year.
Freya’s family received the devastating news that she had cancer in December 2021 after first becoming ill two months earlier.
Soon after, it was confirmed as stage four cancer and Freya underwent a kidney removal, lung surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy for a year.
Freya was later diagnosed with a rare side effect from the chemotherapy triggering internal organ failure, which luckily, she managed to overcome.
‘She’s been through hell and back and it’s been a definite battle,’ Gemma told Lorraine.
‘We did nearly lose her at one point, and I had a courter prepare me for the worst.
‘But what Freya does, is she pulls through, and she doesn’t give up her fight, which is just the epitome of Freya.’
During the treatment process, Echo was Freya’s reason to get home. ‘She was my aim if I was at hospital, I had to get home to see her,’ Freya said.
The young ‘cancer warrior’ was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer at the age of seven
Since the award win, the eight-year-old introduced her canine to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, which involved ‘lots of kisses’ on Echo’s behalf (pictured)
What is a Wilms’ tumour?
The disease is a form of kidney cancer that affects around 70 children in the UK each year.
It most often develops in youngsters below the age of five.
Wilms’ tumours, also known as nephroblastomas, begins to develop when a baby is still growing inside their mother.
However, it may not cause any symptoms until a few years after the child is born.
They are most common in children under five but can appear in older children and adults on rare occasions.
Wilms’ tumours usually only affect one kidney (unilateral) but in about seven out of every 100 children it can affect both (bilateral).
Most Wilms’ tumours are quite large when they are found – very often much bigger than the kidney itself.
Fortunately, most of them have not spread to other parts of the body.
The most common symptom is a swelling in the abdomen, which is usually painless.
Occasionally, the tumour may bleed slightly and this can cause irritation in the area of the kidney, which may be painful.
Children with the condition may have blood in their urine, or their blood pressure may be raised.
The child may also have a fever, upset stomach, weight loss or a lack of appetite.
Freya’s love of dogs formed at an early age, when she would help her mum who used to work as a dog walker, and the two would always sit down to watch Crufts together.
Gemma and Freya’s father decided to buy puppy Echo to encourage their daughter to go for walks after having to spend weeks at a time in hospital.
The inseparable duo inspired thousands when they walked onto the world’s most famous dog stage at the NEC Birmingham.
Describing her experience as ‘amazing’, Freya achieved second place at the Cruft’s show. She added: ‘I did it for cancer warriors.’
However, the pair almost didn’t make it through qualifiers after Freya had a around of intensive treatment the night before.
Previously, Gemma explained: ‘She had to have a massive transfusion that lasted for about six hours.
‘We didn’t get back home until the early hours of the morning, which was the same day as the [Crufts qualifier] show, but she was adamant, ‘We’re not staying at home, we’re going.’
‘It was an absolute whirlwind of a day, she was just absolutely buzzing to get in the ring, and it wasn’t until after the show finished that we told her that she had qualified for Crufts.
‘That’s when she was screaming and jumping around with joy and nearly crying with how excited she was.’
Gemma said: ‘Bad days, she’s there. Good days, she’s there. She’s never fussed with her tubes or anything.
‘She understands what’s out of bounds with the NG tube or wigglies as we call them that come out of her belly, she’s brilliant and she has never looked at them.’
It’s not only emotional support that Echo provides for Freya but physical.
As Gemma continued: ‘Echo has definitely encouraged her to get out. Freya had issues with her muscles when she was hospitalised for so long, her muscles shortened.
‘And then the chemo can cause things like drop foot and so Freya has suffered with that.
‘She has to wear splints to try and help her to walk, which was hard for her but Echo is the reason she would get every day and do it.
‘She’s got the responsibility of feeding, watering, brushing, everything, so it’s a reason to get out of bed and get home from treatment and look forward to the future.’
When starting on their showing journey, the Harris family came across a ring craft class for Freya that catered specifically for those with additional needs.
Freya’s parents bought Echo to encourage the youngster to get outside and go for walks after spending weeks in hospital
‘People were very welcoming, they accommodated what her requirements were, they just accommodated whatever she needed to be done,’ Gemma added.
‘We are really grateful for that because it has let her follow her dream. She’s following it and they guided her in the right direction as to what she needs to do, so they’ve taken us under their wing.’
Both Echo and Freya have loved honing their craft and training for the huge dog show.
Gemma added: ‘Echo really enjoys whatever she’s doing with Freya. So it doesn’t matter if she was curling up on the sofa or showing off, she loves it.
‘She loves the attention that she gets from it. She’s a working breed anyway so she needs that extra stimulation as it goes to keep her happy, so she loves it.’
Freya is excited to be taking part in Crufts and to be surrounded by thousands of dogs and dog lovers.
When it comes to the competition the youngster has a positive outlook.
Freya said: ‘It’s all about the participation. It doesn’t matter if you win – it is just about trying.’
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