By Alex Matthews
The video of a brave little girl battling cancer belting out ‘Fight Song’ has gone viral and racked up one million views.
Little Anya Ottley, six, showed her determination to beat the illness when she confidently took to the floor at a family friend’s wedding, singing and acting out Rachel Platten’s 2014 number one hit song last month [May 26].
Anya performed the poignant lyrics as she undergoes 28 gruelling rounds of intensive chemotherapy at Manchester Children’s Hospital following a kidney cancer diagnosis in November 2017.
The Little Mix fan is due to finish her treatment for Wilms’ tumour next month and will have a ‘ring-the-bell’ party to mark the occasion.
There she plans to sing the hit, which includes the lyrics ‘this is my fight song, take back my life song, prove I’m alright song’, and decided to practise at the wedding reception, delighting proud parents Kathryn and Andy, 50.
Mum-of-one Kathryn from Bolton, Greater Manchester, said: “Anya is such an incredibly brave and beautiful little girl.
“Her performance at the wedding brought a tear to my eye and to several others in the room. It was fantastic to watch her and it made me so proud.
“She adores singing and she just wants to entertain all the time. She’s a huge Little Mix fan and dreams of meeting them one day.
“When she started her treatment I promised her a ring-the-bell party when she gets better and told her she could sing at it.
“Anya asked me what the song should be and we thought about ‘Fight Song’, which fits really well.
“She wanted to sing at the wedding and I told her it would be a good time to practise it for her party.
“Her uncle Aidan posted it online afterwards and the reaction it has had is incredible. I’ve had people messaging me from the USA and Australia.
“Anya makes YouTube videos and gets excited when she tells me she’s had 19 views, so to tell her one of her videos has more than one million views, she didn’t really know what to say.”
School office worker Kathryn, 43, first noticed something was wrong when usually energetic Anya became extremely tired after a party last November and her mechanic dad Andy noticed a lump on her tummy as she lay on the sofa.
Blood tests and an MRI at Royal Bolton Hospital confirmed she had a giant cancerous tumour in her stomach measuring 14.5cm by 9cm by 7cm – around the size of a small melon.
She was referred to Manchester Children’s Hospital, which confirmed a diagnosis of Wilms’ tumour, a type of kidney cancer, on November 17 and started chemotherapy that day.
The tot also underwent surgery on the tumour and had her left kidney removed.
The treatment was initially successful, shrinking the tumour to half its size, but since January 27 Anya has been having chemotherapy every Monday to try and kill off the tumour completely.
Kathryn said: “Until Anya was very tired and I saw that lump in her tummy there were no symptoms at all.
“You couldn’t see it when she stood up, it was only clear when she lay down. We didn’t even see it on holiday in the October half-term holiday, despite how big it was.
“It was about the size of a small melon.
“I’m so glad we caught it when we did otherwise we might be telling a very different story right now, I dare not think about it really.
“I tried to stay really calm for her when she was admitted to Manchester because I didn’t want her to see me get upset.
“She knew something was wrong and she did ask me if she was going to die, which was heart breaking, but I told her she wouldn’t and she’s been so incredibly brave and strong.
“She even takes the chemotherapy in her stride. It makes her sick but she tells me it’s not too bad for her and that other children on the ward are much sicker.
“She is really caring like that.”
Kathryn says Anya’s diagnosis and treatment hit the family especially hard they lost Kathryn’s sister Rachel at the age of 42 to sepsis four years ago.
Kathryn said: “It’s been really tough. My sister introduced me to Andy and named Anya as well.
“She was unwell over Christmas, just like Anya was, and we took her into hospital and she died on January 5.
“The possibility of losing Anya as well was almost too much to bear. But her treatment is set to finish on July 9 and she will ring that bell and enjoy her party.”
For now Anya continues to do her schoolwork at home as her low immune system makes it difficult for her to be in the classroom.
She also refuses to wear a wig given to her by the Little Princess Trust, despite having had her own hair cut and donated to make a wig, as she prefers not to hide her cancer.
Her family are raising money for the Little Princess Trust and Manchester Children’s Hospital and have so far raised nearly £20,000.
Their JustGiving page can be found at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/anyagrace
FACT BOX: WHAT IS WILMS’ TUMOUR?
Wilms’ tumour is a type of renal (kidney) cancer in children.
It was named after German pathologist Max Wilms (1867-1918) who first discovered it.
Wilms’ tumour affects between 80 and 85 children in the UK each year.
In one in 100 people with Wilms’ tumour a family member will also have the condition.
The causes are unknown but it is thought to develop from immature cells in the embryo, which are involved in the development of a child’s kidneys in the womb.
These cells usually disappear at birth, but in many children with Wilms’ tumour, clusters of primitive kidney cells can still be found.
The most common symptom is a swollen abdomen, which is usually painless.
Occasionally the tumour may bleed slightly and this can irritate the kidney and may be painful. There may be blood in a child’s urine, or they may have raised blood pressure.
The child may feel upset, have a fever, upset stomach, weight loss or a lack of appetite.
More than 85% of children with Wilms’ tumour are successfully treated.
(Information from MacMillan Cancer Support)