Eleven year old Benji was doing what he loved best – playing football – when his family first realised something was wrong.
Benji was playing with his local team when his leg completely gave way and he was unable to put any weight on it.
His dad took him straight to A&E and he had x-rays at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford.
Within days, his parents were given the devastating news that their little boy had a cancerous tumour above his right knee.
Looking back, they vaguely remembered him mentioning a pain in his knee, but had thought it was probably growing pains – he was so active trampolining, playing football and jumping out of trees – they put it down to that.
The diagnosis came as a terrible shock. “It was all so unexpected,” Benji’s mum Hayley told us. “We felt like we’d been hit by a bus.”
Benji had to endure 10 weeks of chemotherapy before his was to undergo surgery.
The operation took place at Birmingham Orthopaedic Hospital – doctors removed his knee and replaced it with a prosthetic implant.
Thankfully the surgery was successful – but Benji still had 18 more lots of chemotherapy and another 48 doses of preventative chemo to follow.
“We practically lived in hospital,” Hayley remembers. “But Benji has healed really well. It’s just taken him a long time to get walking again because all the muscles and ligaments were affected. He had the operation in December and it wasn’t until around August that he was walking without crutches again.”
Although he’s made a good recovery, Benji won’t be able to play football again. It’s absolutely gutting for him, but he’s gradually finding things that he can do to replace all the sports activities he used to love taking part in.
After such an incredibly difficult time, Benji’s parents applied for him to have a wish – giving him something positive to look forward to after his marathon of gruelling treatment.
Being a massive football fan, his wish naturally involved the beautiful game – he chose to see a top team play in Barcelona.
After frequent conversations with the family, Wishgranter Nicola made sure everything was in place so Benji could have the best possible time!
Benji woke up at the crack of dawn on Friday 1 April 2016. Excitement was high – it was finally time for his wish!
Benji, his older brother William, mum Hayley and dad Andrew arrived at Birmingham airport – they couldn’t wait to board their flights to Barcelona!
Benji was given special treatment on the flight – Nicola had organised a letter to be given to the cabin crew at Monarch Airlines – the staff came straight over to Benji and his brother, and the pair of them got to go in the cockpit!
It was a truly magical start to the holiday. Hayley told us: “Benji and his brother went in the cockpit and took a photo – it was brilliant. We couldn’t fault the airline, they were really helpful.”
The family got to stay in the heart of Barcelona in a hotel in Las Ramblas for three nights. Then they headed to the stadium to watch Barcelona FC take on Real Madrid in La Liga.
It was an exhilarating game – with Real Madrid taking a 2-1 lead and Barcelona losing their 39 unbeaten match streak.
Benji’s mum told us: “Benji really looked forward to this wish – at times I think he thought he’d never be able to do anything really.”
They also saw all the city's iconic sights by bus and loved watching the street entertainers!
It was a holiday the family will always treasure – creating some memories that will stay with football-mad Benji forever.
Hayley summed up the wish in her own words: “It was the light at the end of the tunnel to be able to go away together.”
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