in 2017 you probably saw rainbow-coloured ribbons decorating cars and streets in the south Wales valleys and beyond.
The beautiful ribbons were just one way people showed their support for for a little girl called Mia Chambers, affectionately referred to by those who know her as the “rainbow warrior”.
After falling unwell in 2016 when she was just four-years-old, Mia was diagnosed with neuroblastoma – a rare and aggressive cancer that mostly affects babies and young children. A rainbow-themed campaign was started to try and raise funds to give the youngster access to a clinical trial aimed at avoiding a relapse.
The multi-coloured fundraising campaign soon took off and to this day it has remained symbolic of Mia and her family's fight against cancer, especially in her hometown of Merthyr Tydfil. You can read more about the campaign here.
Mia first became unwell when a cancerous lump was discovered in her stomach and she was taken to Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital for Wales in Cardiff. Further tests confirmed the lump was stage four high risk neuroblastoma. After treatment saw her free of cancer, the aim was to be able to go to America for a trial aimed at avoiding a relapse.
Remarkably, £170,000 was raised for her by May 2017. In August last year, the total stood at £280,000 - enough to send her to Michigan to begin the treatment. Altogether, the rainbow campaign - along with various events organised by residents in Merthyr and the wider valleys - raised a massive £311,000.
It is something her parents Josh and Kirsty are "forever grateful" for, especially as they proudly watched Mia ring the all-clear bell at Noah's Ark Children's Hospital for Wales in October 2019 after they were given the good news a few weeks earlier in Michigan.
Mia is now almost 10 and is living a happy and active life, attending Gwaunfarren Primary as a full-time year four pupil. Like most children her age, she enjoys gaming as well as drawing, horse riding and PE.
Josh, 32, said: "It's still a shock today seeing what people did for us. We never expected to raise enough money to be able to give her this chance. She's a marvellous person and an outstanding daughter. She's really bright and really pleasant despite everything she's been through.
"She had such strong treatment at such a young age that she's never going to be as fit as other children her age with what her body went through, but she tries at everything she does. At school she loves maths and PE and generally being in the company of other people. We were able to buy her a pony, Sugar, and she loves going for lessons with her friend.
"At the time of her diagnosis, Mia was given about a 55% chance of surviving treatment as many children relapse. At that point we could only plan three to six-months ahead depending on her treatments. We didn't know what the outcome was going to be. We will be forever grateful for all the support we had to get her to this point."
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Josh said Mia hasn't stayed long-term at hospital since 2017. During her treatment, she had scans every three months but now just has one full health screen a year to make sure the cancer has not returned. She will have one of these scans in August and then her final scan will be in August 2022.
"That will mark five years post treatment," said Josh. "From a medical perspective, she will have been in remission for five years next August. From then, she will give regular urine samples to check how she's doing, but that's [less invasive]. Of course you have your worries, but we are optimistic because she is doing great."
Josh said it was wonderful to see her at the stage she's at now after everything she went through in 2016 and 2017.
Despite all the intense chemotherapy, radiotherapy and stem cell treatments she had at that time, Mia always amazed doctors in both Wales and the US with how well she responded. But due to her cancer's high risk of relapse, Josh and Kristy realised their best chance of giving Mia a future would be to undergo a clinical trial in the US.
For Mia to undergo the trial, however, her family, together with charity Solving Kids’ Cancer, had to find more than £100,000.
On March 31, 2017 the town of Merthyr Tydfil celebrated Rainbow Day to raise money for Mia. Hundreds of people added rainbows to their profile pictures on Facebook, while children wore bright colours to school.
Meanwhile, in Suzanne's Florists on Brecon Road, a group of women were working around the clock to churn out bows to sell.
Josh said the family were overwhelmed with the support, as friends and strangers alike came together to organise fundraising events to give Mia the lifeline treatment in America.
"We went live with Mia's fundraising page in February 2017 and we needed around £162,000 by July for her to have the treatment in America. She also needed to stay in remission for the surgery to go ahead. When we found out how much money we needed to raise in just a few months, it was a kick because we didn't think it would be possible.
"We didn't want to ask for money but we were very lucky that people were understanding and wanted to help us give our daughter the best chance. Over that weekend we raised £2,000 which we thought was amazing. Within March, we raised around £11,000, in April we raised £22,000 and in May we raised £104,000 in two weeks.
"People helped us by putting on their own events, which was anything from car washes and fun days to sponsored walks or cycles. Many were organised by people we hadn't even met. We'd attend every event and show our faces just to say thank you and to show how much it meant to us."
Though it's been four years since the fundraising efforts first kicked off, Josh said people still continued to show support for Mia which means so much to the family.
"To this day, walking around Merthyr I see elderly women wearing rainbow-ribbon pins on their clothes for Mia. They wear them as though it's a broach to continue showing their support," he said. "Lots of people, particularly the older generation, will stop in the street and ask her how she's doing even until this day. You can see the genuine happiness on their face when we tell them how well she's doing."
Though Mia is doing amazingly well, she does live with some long-term health issues because of her intense treatment. These include osteoporosis (brittle bones) and vitiligo which means she has light patches of skin in some areas. However, Josh said the most important thing to the family is that she is cancer-free and able to enjoy a happy life as a nine-year-old little girl.
He said that even though it was amazing to see Mia growing and thriving, it was difficult for the family to let go after everything she had been through.
"When she was ill, chickenpox could have killed her, but now she has normal immunity and she still hasn't had it. She has to have the normal experiences as a child of tripping over and mixing with others so she gets that immunity," said Josh.
"At first it is hard to let go and give her that space after everything she's been through, but she is growing up now and she's doing her own things and she's doing so well. It's amazing to see her doing normal things, we just want to protect her.
Josh said the most important thing for the family is to focus on what they have and what they are grateful for.
"We're optimistic for the future," he said. "But of course the worry will never go away. That's our life now, we'll never be quite the same as we were before she was diagnosed. It's a new life you live with your child, we still live for hospital dates and with a child who has illnesses and issues and we can't change that.
"The main thing is that she's alive and happy. We feel fortunate that we were able to give her this chance with the help of others and we are fortunate that she responded well to treatment because other children don't have that. You fully expect [things to go wrong] but when they don't you've just got to be grateful."