Banburyshire boy joins leading amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen in campaign to raise awareness about bone cancer signs among dentists

Eight-year-old Freddie Croft of Bodicote is helping to raise awareness of bone cancer, hand in hand with Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning amateur jockey, Sam Waley-Cohen.

By Roseanne Edwards
Monday, 18th October 2021, 12:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 9:34 am

Freddie (whose battle with bone cancer was first told in the Banbury Guardian last Christmas) and Mr Waley-Cohen led support for National Bone Cancer Awareness Week which ran throughout last week. The campaign was organised by the charity Bone Cancer Research Trust.

The two were joined by hundreds of dentists, to help the charity increase early detection of some of the rarest bone cancers. Mr Waley-Cohen's involvement came through his dental practice business, Portman Dental Care, and his own personal story of losing his brother in 2004 to bone cancer. The family home is at Upton Viva, near Banbury.

The campaign was to highlight cancers affecting the head and neck, which account for 14 per cent of all bone cancers, and to educate hundreds of dentists to help increase early detection of some of the rarest bone cancers affecting the skull, face and jaw.

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Freddie with his family's young dog

Freddie recently finished treatment for Ewing sarcoma, which affects less than 100 people a year in the UK, after he was diagnosed with the rare cancer following a visit to his dentist.

The awareness week included webinars hosted by Mr Waley-Cohen's dental practice.

Dr Zoe Davison, head of research, information and support at Bone Cancer Research Trust, said: “Bone cancers can impact anyone, anywhere and this year we’re focusing on bone cancers of the skull, face and jaw by helping dentists recognise the early signs and how they can help in the fight against this horrible disease

“70 per cent of patients diagnosed with a primary bone cancer or tumour of the jaw visit the dentist when first seeking medical advice.

Freddie Croft with his puppy Chomper

“Freddie was just six years old when his dentist recognised something was wrong and thankfully that intervention helped him quickly receive the treatment he needed. Thankfully he’s on the road to recovery following months of treatment.

“If we could have every dentist in the UK recognising the early signs of rare cancers like Ewing sarcoma, it would make a huge difference to bone cancer detection and survival rates.

“This is why we’re so grateful for the likes of Portman Dental Care for hosting a webinar on bone cancer and using its 167 practices to raise awareness to its colleagues. We know how much bone cancer impacted Portman’s owner Sam and his family, so we’re really appreciative of his fantastic support.

“We’re only a small charity so every piece of support is vital if we’re to fund research into bone cancers and help save more lives in the future.”

Amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen who has helped spearhead the bone cancer awareness campaign through his dental practice

Other activities to support Bone Cancer Awareness Week included a Bake it for Bone Cancer day on Friday and a virtual 100km dog walk. Freddie's father, William's family business, Crofts in Broad Street, Banbury ran its own fundraising effort and staff all wore Bone Cancer Trust sweatshirts and promotional wear.

All money raised will help the fight against bone cancers, including Ewing sarcoma which affected young Freddie.

Freddie’s mum Nicole explained how his life was thrown into turmoil following his diagnosis and why he’s determined to help others avoid a similar situation in the future by supporting Bone Cancer Awareness Week.

She said: “Our whole family, including my husband William and Freddie’s brothers, Albert and Stanley, are really pleased to help with this awareness week, as we know just how important our message is to people who might unknowingly be suffering from Ewing sarcoma or another bone cancer in the head or neck.

Freddie Croft when he was receiving treatment for Ewing sarcoma

“Thanks to our family and friends we continually fundraise with the Bone Cancer Research Trust, through Freddie’s Future, which directs money to research the causes and possible cures for the cancer he suffered from.

“We’ve raised more the £60,000 so far and hope that further awareness can help increase that, to ensure fewer children and families got through what we have done in the last two years.

“Thankfully Freddie has come through his battle, after months of enduring chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which had a terrible effect on his body. He has regular trips to various clinics every few months to check up on the impact on his treatment, including audio, visual and heart monitoring, and still gets tired quickly. But we’re slowly getting the Freddie we know back and that’s all we can ask for.

“Bone cancers in the head and neck are difficult to recognise and diagnose because they can be rare and have no obvious outward signs, which is why we’re so grateful to the dentist for spotting something wasn’t right and sending us straight to hospital to see a specialist.”

Sam Waley-Cohen's younger brother Thomas sadly passed away in 2004 from bone cancer and his family raised more than £1m in his memory for Oxford Children’s Hospital – which named a ward after Thomas in recognition.

Mr Waley-Cohen said: “My family and I are fully aware about the impact bone cancer can have which is why I’m fully behind Bone Cancer Awareness Week.

Freddie Croft with his mum Nicole, dad William and brothers Albert and Stanley last Christmas

“Thomas was an amazing brother and he was a great example to us all in the way he bravely fought the disease, so I’ll always be there to support Bone Cancer Research Trust and hope one day no one has to go through what we did.

“Hearing about Freddie’s story and how he and his family are determined to raise funds for research and awareness of bone cancer is so heart-warming. The fact his cancer was spotted by a visit to the dentist shows the vital role our dental colleagues can have in detecting bone cancers in the head and neck.

“As well as the educational webinars for colleagues in our practices, we’ll be looking at how our ongoing training can support Bone Cancer Research Trust’s objective of ensuring all dental professionals can spot the early signs.”