A TRYING and worrying year for Rieli Biggins and his family has ended on a happy and hopeful note.
The youngster has responded well to his leukaemia treatment and he got an early Christmas present – a new baby sister.
The year 2008 began with four-year-old Rieli, of Annie Street, Accrington, falling ill in January, and after he had undergone blood tests his devastated family were told of his condition in May.
Rieli underwent intensive bone marrow and lumbar puncture treatments and in October began chemo-therapy at Manchester’s Pendlebury Hospital.
His mum Jade Flood, 20, says she and Rieli’s dad Lee Biggins are keeping their fingers crossed that he is now "on the mend" and doctors seem very happy with his progress.
He now requires one short chemotherapy appointment every four weeks and his hair is growing back, although he still gets tired.
Rieli moved house in the summer as a new arrival in the family was expected and shortly before Christ-mas baby Lexia was born, weighing a bouncing 8lb 6oz.
Jade explained: "Rieli looks after her, helping to bath and feed her. He didn’t like her much at first because she kept waking him up but now he is smitten."
On 21 December Rieli celebrated his fourth birthday with a trip to Giddy Kippers party centre in Nelson and a meal at McDonald’s, and Christmas Day was spent at his grandmother Sharon’s home in Cambridge Street, Accrington, with a big dinner for the whole family.
Rieli, who is a car fanatic, received Speed Racer toys and a garage among his many Christmas presents.
His illness had forced the cancellation of a family holiday and this inspired his 12-year-old cousin Paige Grimshaw-Rosbotham to start a fund-raising campaign with the aim of sending him to Disney World in Florida when he is better.
Thanks to Paige, Accrington Lions, Child’s Play pre-school and other generous donors, thousands of pounds have been raised although unfortunately doctors have said Rieli cannot travel to the United States for three years.
Last month Accrington Rotary Club’s We Will Fix It panel arranged for the Blackburn fan to have a photograph taken with all the players before the match with Chelsea.