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Joy and smiles as young Zac Oliver calls time on cancer treatment

By Dominic Robertson | Telford | Health | Published:

In May 2018 the lives of Zac Oliver and his family were thrown into turmoil at the news he had a rare, life-threatening leukaemia, but less than two years later the five-year-old has marked the end of a hugely inspirational and emotional journey by ringing the end of treatment bell.

Zac and his mother Hannah Oliver-Willets with Steve Bull

The Broseley youngster was surrounded by friends and family to mark the milestone, along with Wolves legend Steve Bull, as he rang the bell at Princess Royal Hospital Telford's children's unit.

The scenes of joy were a far cry from 2018, when the family was delivered the devastating diagnosis that Zac had a rare acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

His recovery has been a tale of inspiration and community effort, after the people of Shropshire banded together to help raise £500,000 to pay for specialist Car-T therapy at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in America.

Zac and his mother Hannah Oliver-Willets with Steve Bull

Zac's mother, Hannah Oliver-Willetts, was beaming with joy as her son rang the bell at the unit where he was also treated.

She said: "It is very emotional, you just think about the journey you have been through.

"The bell is to represent an important moment and it is important to us as parents to be able to celebrate a really really joyful time."

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Hannah thanked the staff at the hospital and the people, particularly of Shropshire, for their work and support.

She said: "I think it is just lovely. The proof is in the pudding, it was a lot of hard work, involving the effort and time of a lot of people, raising money, doing events and it has paid off, we have got a very healthy happy five-year-old that goes to school like all his other friends. We are so thankful for everything and everyone that has got us to this place."

Zac Oliver with his father Mark Garbett

Zac's father, Mark Garbett, said it was overwhelming to see his boy able to celebrate the end of his treatment.

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He said: "It is surreal really. It has been a hard journey and it has taken time but it seems to have come around really quickly. It has completely changed the way we live our lives for the past couple of years and it is nice to think we can go back to how life was – although I'm not sure it will ever be the same again, life is different now."

He added: "The way everyone came together it has been a light at the end of the tunnel and we would not have been able to do it if it was not for people raising the money."

Zac Oliver who has celebrated the end of his treatment

Steve Bull, Wolves legend and club vice president, said that seeing a child recover from cancer was an inspiration to everyone.

He said: "I have done a lot of things in my career, I've had an MBE, I went to a World Cup, won medals, but things like this top it off.

"Zac will be an inspiration to other kids out there that if they have something like that then they can beat it too."

Janice Llewellyn, paediatric haematology nurse specialist at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust, who was Zac's key worker from his diagnosis in 2018, said it was wonderful to mark the end of his treatment, for the staff at the unit as well as the family.

She said: "It is really good to see the children come to the end of their treatment and be happy and healthy and ring the bell and move on with their lives.

"We will still follow them up in the clinic but it is very different."

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