A video of the heartwarming moment was shared on Twitter and quickly went viral. In the evening it had 10,000 views, but by the time the family woke up the next day it had over two million – and the story had been picked up in America.
Sam remembers how the story snowballed: “It was one of the later stages of the World Cup. Harry Kane spoke about Ben in a press conference. Jordan Pickford talked about it, calling Ben an ‘inspiration’.
“It was amazing that Ben was being talked about by an England team preparing for one of the biggest games of their lives. Things went mad for a bit. It was really good because it gave us some positivity, some excitement.”
Mum Jo says: “It felt like a film, and we were characters being swept along. It felt like we were winning. It was a bit like we were the England team, Ben was the underdog, defying expectations. We thought ‘he’s going to turn this around’.”
Things felt like they were falling into place for the Williams. Ben’s response to the treatment was positive and doctors seemed genuinely surprised at the progress he was making. Dad Sam went back to work and Ben was able to return to school.
Sam says: “We thought we were winning. We started to plan for life after Ben’s treatment. That feels naïve in some ways now, but that positivity meant that Ben never, ever had any idea of the possible negative outcomes, because we didn’t even countenance it.”
Referral to Acorns
In November 2018, the family noticed signs that Ben’s recovery was stalling. By Christmas, Jo and Sam knew that something was seriously wrong and on the 27th of December, ended up in A&E with Ben. Ben’s cancer had ‘come back with a vengeance’.
More radiotherapy followed and the family managed to get Ben accepted on a medical trial.
Sam added: “Even then we were thinking there was going to be a magic wand, a silver bullet. Just a month before he passed, we were at our friends’ wedding and he was there with his suit on dancing, with a constant smile.”
Sadly, Ben’s condition began to deteriorate. A consultant from the Hospital recommended the Williams make decisions about where he would spend his final days. The family decided to bring Ben to Acorns hospice in Selly Oak, Birmingham for end-of-life care.
Sam recalls bringing Ben to the hospice for the first time: “We were at a level of nursing with Ben that was beyond our skill set. Then to come to Acorns and just give that box of medicines away. The staff said: ‘don’t worry about any of that’. They said: ‘just be parents’ and we hadn’t been ‘just parents’ for a long time.”
At Acorns, every need was taken care of, so Jo and Sam could concentrate on making the most of every precious moment with Ben.
The family were given the opportunity to have loved ones around them in a way that would never have been possible in hospital; something that holds immense importance as they look back.
Sam says: “The thing I hope Ben was aware of was that he had lots of people around him. All our friends, all our family came. I remember they were outside, having a picnic in the hospice gardens. So you have these two extremes of life. Ben was amongst that.”