A young man who has battled cancer for almost his entire life celebrated his 20th birthday on Thursday with HUNDREDS of birthday cards from wellwishers.
Sam Hedger - who has now been told he does not have long to live - marked his milestone birthday with a barbecue at his home in Billingshurst with family and friends - and a massive 820 cards.
“He’s still got about 400 to open,” said mum Linda today (Monday). “It’s amazing.”
Sam was first diagnosed with a form of cancer when he was aged just two and a half. In 2012 he was awarded a County Times Youth Award for courage after having to have his leg and pelvis amputated because of bone cancer.
Since then he has undergone many gruelling bouts of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. A course of chemo last year “worked better than everyone expected,” said mum Linda, “but in February this year the cancer came back with a vengeance and now there is nothing more they can do.
“His time is limited.” The cancer has now spread to Sam’s spinal cord and lungs. But Sam himself and his family are determined to make the most of every minute.
“He gets tired very quickly, but he enjoys days out,” said Linda. On Saturday he and his family had a fun day in London, saw a show and had dinner at Planet Hollywood before a limo drive home - complete with a balloon fight on the journey.
Now Sam is looking forward to a holiday in France at a rural villa with his mum, along with dad Kevin, sisters Molly and Becky and Becky’s fiance Alex Booth-Lowe.
Meanwhile, Sam is ploughing through his birthday cards - each one putting a smile on his face - and one in particular, sent by Ben, a disabled youngster at the Aldingbourne Trust, really touched Sam’s heart.
The card featured a hand drawn picture of an owl and Sam commented that it would be lovely to have the owl design on a quilt - and Alfold WI have already come forward with an offer to create one.
And as Sam’s mum also read the cards, she confessed: “I just cry when I read the messages. Everyone is so amazing. Sam himself doesn’t get why people think he is so wonderful. He says ‘I am just me’.”
Meanwhile, hordes more wellwishes are coming via a Facebook page - set up by Linda’s friend Caroline Greenfield after Sam’s condition was first diagnosed as terminal. Said Caroline: “Sam is a very courageous, brave and amazing young man.”
And, after publicising a bucket-list for Sam on the page, car-fan Sam has already achieved a number of his dreams, including a trip to Brands Hatch, driving an Army truck and lorry, a helicopter trip, speed boat ride, and more.