I have finally got round to watching the third episode of this series. This one follows the story of Olivia and Zakk.

Olivia is a three year old from Kent who was diagnosed about nine months before the programme started. Her treatment seems to be doing the trick and the cancer is now in remission, however she is still facing very invasive and painful treatment to come.

As we’ve seen with other children featured in the series, she just gets on with things for the majority of the time and accepts whatever it is that life throws at her with a smile. Things which adults would fret and worry about, like losing their hair, children just get on with. On that subject, Olivia said that she knew people at the hospital were ill because they didn’t have any hair and that she would know she was better because her hair would be back. Such a simple outlook is rarely found in grown-ups.

To have one of your children diagnosed with leukaemia must be heartbreaking, but Olivia’s parents had the complication that she also has a twin sister, Isabella.

The doctors had explained that in past investigations, it was discovered that a twin of a child diagnosed with leukaemia was also more likely to contract the disease. As explained in an earlier episode, the contraction of the disease is a 2-step process and it would appear that the first step happens in the womb which explains why both twins have often taken this step - it’s then down to luck as to whether either or both are unlucky to also succumb to the second stage as well.

Doctors are still not sure just what it is that triggers this, and research continues into the subject.  One theory is that children’s immune systems are not strong enough in some cases.  In the past, when houses and places of work etc were not as cleanly scrubbed and disinfected as they are now, then children were exposed to more viruses and infections early in life - and it’s only through facing these that the body can become stronger and fight the infections it faces in the future.

Because we live in a more sterile environment these days, it would appear that this may be having a negative effect on our health, rather than the more obvious and expected positive effect.  Until there is definite medical proof though, this idea may be wide of the mark.

The treatment left it’s mark on Olivia to such an extent that even though they were only 3-years old, there was a very noticeable difference in the development of the two girls.  Isabella was already growing faster, and looked stronger and fitter than her supposedly identical sister.

The other patient featured this week was Zakk, a 13-year old boy who was mad keen on action sports like diving, motorbiking, karting and skiing.

To see any child afflicted with a condition like this is hard to watch, but to see this fit and active boy reduced to spending some of his time on a mobility scooter was increasingly so.  The treatment affected his coordination, making it difficult to walk and also made parts of his body sore, like his hands, which made it difficult to write or even type on a laptop.  Despite these obstacles, he was determined not to give up going to school although he had to have a day off each week to attend hospital which only meant he was getting further and further behind in his work.

Having to mentally cope with having a serious disease would be more than enough for most people to contend with, without the added pressure of seeing his classmates get further ahead of him in school as well - but somehow he seemed able to handle this.

I don’t know how the producers picked who they followed in this series, but all the children who have been featured have shown amazing courage and mental fortitude, and a will to just get through this with as little fuss as possible no matter how tough it gets.  Whether this is only true of the children featured or whether it’s true of children in general I don’t know - if it’s the latter then I think there’s a lot we as adults can learn from them.

Zakk’s body seemed to be handling the treatment better than most - perhaps due to his very active lifestyle prior to diagnosis - and he was lucky enough to avoid any serious infections whilst receiving his treatment, in fact his hair hadn’t even fallen out.

Olivia was not so lucky.  No sooner had she been allowed home from the hospital, than she was back in having contracted shingles.  This continued to plague her for some time until she was eventually deemed fit enough to return home to her family - but this wasn’t the end of the trouble for her.

Her family rushed her to hopsital after they noticed there was something amiss with her eyes.  On investigation it turned out that she was in fact now blind in her left eye - probably due to the shingles, yet she hadn’t shown any signs that she was in distress or struggling to see until now.  Another sign of her bravely battling on without wanting to complain.

Due to the blindness in her eye, the doctors warned that she was likely to develop a squint as she progressed through life.  Her mother had been used to people staring at her daughter due to the obvious signs of her illness, and had been looking forward to her appearance returning to normal following the end of her treatment - however this was just going to give people another excuse to stare, and it was one which wasn’t going to go away for the rest of her life.

While Olivia seemed to be on the mend as far as the leukaemia was concerned, her parents couldn’t just sit back and breathe a big sigh of relief as they still had the worry that Isabella could be struck down at any time.  They were on constant vigil for signs that this may be the case, and I can’t even begin to imagine what this must be like for them.  Any parent worries about their child becoming ill, but when you know the odds are higher in your own child’s case (and know just what is in store should they become ill) then it must be real torture.

For the time being however, they seemed to be slowly getting back to a more normal life - and hopefully that’s how it will continue.

Zakk too was looking forward to getting back to normality, however his time away from the sports he had loved had dampened his enthusiasm for some of them.  He had decided that the treatment had deteriorated his coordination to such an extent that he would no longer be able to ride motorbikes as he once could so he wouldn’t be returning to that.  The thrill of skiing had also lost it’s appeal so he had no desire to get back to that either, though I suspect he may give it a second chance in a year or two just to see how he gets on.

The programme ended with him taking his first dive since being diagnosed with leukaemia, this was the sport he still loved and felt able to continue safely.  Hopefully his progress will continue in a positive manner, and his life will return to a level that he loves as much as he did prior to diagnosis.