Brave four-year-olds Ava Campbell and Evie Gilroy held hands and sounded the airhorn together to send around 9,000 runners off on the 5K course at Glasgow Green to raise vital funds for Cancer Research UK.
The girls, whose inspirational friendship began after they first met in hospital, were chosen as VIPs to kick off the Race for Life event.
It was a special moment for the families of the girls, who were both treated at Glasgow’s old Yorkhill Hospital, now the Royal Hospital for Children. Ava and Evie endured months of treatment but also celebrated together after they both got the all-clear.
Ava’s mum Lindsay Campbell, 30, of Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, said: “We’re so proud of our girls.
“They’ve amazed us with how resilient and brave they’ve been, both dealing with surgery and then some pretty nasty treatment.
“They may have lost their hair, but they didn’t lose their determination. No parent ever wants to go through what we have, but making friends under the most horrible of circumstances has really helped us all through.
“Every penny raised at Race for Life will go towards helping families like ours and that’s so important. It’s the only way we can hope to find a cure.”
Ava was diagnosed last summer with a Wilms’ tumour, a type of kidney cancer that affects around 80 children in the UK every year.
Doctors found the tumour in her right kidney after symptoms including blood in her urine.
Little Evie, of Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, was diagnosed only months earlier in April 2015 after mum Yvonne, 38, a community staff nurse, saw a spot of blood on her underwear at bedtime.
Evie needed four cycles of pre-surgery chemo before an operation to remove her right kidney, due to the extent of her tumour, last July.
When the girls were first introduced in the playroom of the hospital, Ava was yet to have her surgery to remove her right kidney and Evie was just recovering from her operation.
Side effects of chemotherapy meant both girls lost their long blonde hair during treatment but both wore Disney princess headbands with faux ponytails attached despite having lost their own hair.
Yvonne, also mum to two-year-old Abbey, said: “The girls hit it off immediately.
“When I got talking to Ava’s parents, I discovered what they were going through was very similar to how my husband Andrew and I were feeling. It was so nice to see the girls playing together.
“Before long the girls were pleading with us to visit each other’s hospital rooms to play. What they were going through was horrible, but at least they each had a friend who was facing the same thing.
“When Evie’s hair began to come out in clumps I asked her if it would be okay to shave it and she said yes. No mum wants to have to do that for their little girl.
“I had a lump in my throat when she turned round smiling at the end and said ‘look mummy, now I’m just like all the other boys and girls in hospital’. I know that part was hard on my husband too.”
A scan last October brought mortgage advisor Lindsay and husband Chris, 30, a tattoo artist, the news they’d been hoping for when Ava got the all clear.
Yvonne and husband Andrew, 35, a farmer, got the same reason to celebrate when Evie was told she was cancer free two months later in December.
Both girls are now looking forward to starting school in August, Ava at Kirkshaws Primary in Coatbridge and Evie at Milton Primary in Lesmahagow. Despite living miles apart, they’ll remain firm friends.
Lindsay, also mum to Abhy, eight, and stepmum to Aimee, 10, added: “We go to each other’s houses all the time and it’s lovely for the girls to catch up. As well as them making friends, Yvonne and I have a nice bond too.
“No-one can know what it’s like having a child with cancer unless you’ve been through it and Yvonne and I understand each other. Because Evie’s diagnosis was before Ava’s, Yvonne could tell me what to expect and she was such an amazing support.”
Earlier, Yvette Hutcheson, 29, of Glasgow who completed treatment for breast cancer just 48 hours ago on Friday afternoon (May 20) was chosen to go on stage at Glasgow Green to rally a sea of pink ladies ahead of the Race.
Yvette stood shoulder to with her mum Jacqueline Hutcheson,52, two sisters Gemma Bradley,22, Siobhan Bradley,21, and pals including best friend Dawn Gillespie, 29, united by a determination to beat cancer sooner.
Yvette who vowed to dance her way around the 5K course even signed up her Lhasa Apso pet dog Scout to do Race for Life Glasgow.