As a toddler, Nengi Akins went “to hell and back” during her treatment for cancer.
Now, as a healthy, happy teenager, she has put that experience behind her and has her sights set on a future in music.
Nengi, 15, from Croydon, sings, writes, plays piano and guitar and is hoping for a place at the BRIT School.
Her proud mum Janet said: “As a child, she went to hell with her treatment. It was awful. But now she’s great – she’s doing really well at school and is probably the healthiest in the family!”
Nengi is a prefect at Harris City Academy, Crystal Place, and loves photography.
She has previously received a Star Award from Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People, in partnership with TK Maxx. And now she has been honoured as part of a special awards show celebrating the courage of children diagnosed with cancer.
Nengi was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma when she was two and had to undergo months of intensive chemotherapy.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the immune system, weakening it, and making the patient incredibly prone to further infection and illness.
Janet took Nengi to hospital after a persistent cough failed to improve. Scans confirmed everyone’s worst fear. “My world just stopped at that moment. Words cannot describe how I felt. It was a horrible time. Nengi was bloated and couldn’t feed so had to be fed through a tube for six weeks.”
Nengi needed 11 months of intensive chemotherapy during which time she lost her hair and was very ill.
“Originally, it was only supposed to be six months of chemo but there were several complications and due to her frailty it took longer,” said Janet. She then had 13 months of oral chemotherapy.
Nengi was one of 15 children from across the UK recognised during the virtual awards show. Hosted by children affected by the disease, it was filmed to highlight the impact cancer has on young lives and encourage more nominations for the accolade in the run-up to Christmas.
Famous faces, including presenter of Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two, Janette Manrara, YouTuber Jim Chapman, world champion football freestyler Liv Cooke and Tracy Beaker actress Dani Harmer also made appearances to congratulate the award-winners and send them messages of support.
Janet said: “The Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People Star Awards really help to keep raising awareness about what children and young people go through. We’ve always known Nengi is a VIP, but it was special to see her shine on screen as part of the Star Awards show.
“We’re really proud of her and we hope she helps inspire other families to get nominating.”
Around 530 children and young people in London are diagnosed with cancer every year.
The Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People Star Awards are open to all children under 18 who live in the UK and have been treated for cancer within the past five years.
Everyone nominated receives a trophy, a £50 TK Maxx gift card, a T-shirt and a certificate signed by a host of famous faces. Their siblings also receive a certificate.
Lynn Daly, Cancer Research UK’s London spokesperson said, “Nengi was a star when she was little, going through some really tough treatment. It’s brilliant to see her now, thriving in every way and on the brink of a musical future.
“It was an absolute privilege to recognise her courage with a Star Award and now celebrate the occasion with a special show.
“As we mark our 20th anniversary, we’re reflecting on the progress made in the fight against the disease, but there’s still much further to go.
“Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults, from the types of cancer to the impact of treatment – and many youngsters may experience serious long-term side effects. That’s why we’re supporting dedicated research to ensure more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life.
“We’re urging other people to nominate children and young people like Nengi for a Star Award now, so that many more affected by this devastating disease can receive the acknowledgement they so richly deserve.”
The Star Awards are run in partnership with TK Maxx, the biggest corporate supporter of Cancer Research UK’s work into children’s and young people’s cancers. Since 2004, the retailer has raised over £43million for vital research to help improve survival and reduce the long-term side effects of treatments.
To nominate a star visit cruk.org/starawards
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