Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Lovely article on Wales Online website this week about Llanharan RFC's own Cian Case. It reminds us all of what a fighter he was and how his legacy " The Cian Case Memorial Day", helps to keep his fighting spirit very much alive.
More than two years on after his death, the community has done something special to honour Cian
Cian Case loved hugs - and everyone who knew him loved getting one off him.
His infectious enthusiasm, laughter and determination - that went way beyond his tender years - lit up every room he was in.
For everyone who held him close to their hearts, you could never, ever, forget Cian.
And when he died, just aged six, it not only devastated his family but it also shattered the hearts of an entire community.
However, while the pain of losing Cian is still as raw as it was yesterday for dad Richard, the mere mention of his son's name makes him shine with pride.
He said: "When we were told he was having treatment we thought he would go into himself, but he remained positive right until the end.
"He thought it was the physiotherapy that was making him better rather than the other treatment, and even when his mobility was deteriorating he was always pushing himself.
"Even things like motivating himself to walk to the park and back – that’s what he believed would make him get better."
Cian - who lived in Llanharan with his mum, dad and two siblings - was admitted to the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in late November 2015 with tummy pains when a scan revealed he had a tumour on his spine. Tests later showed he had cancer - which had also spread to his brain.
Richard, 45, recalled: "We were always the kind of people who would fast forward Children In Need because we would get too upset, and then we were thrust in the middle of the scenerio."
Despite the gravest of diagnoses, Cian showed he was a fighter. And by the summer of 2016 there was joyous scenes at Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital of Wales in Cardiff as Cian rang a bell to signal the end of his treatment.
After seven months of treatment his family were told Cian would be discharged from hospital, with an MRI scan showing that his treatment had been successful.
"It's such a nice place, and it's such a positive place, and Cian fitted in perfectly there," said Richard.
"There was a lot of positivity around. Although we were there for eight or nine months there were more happy memories than sad memories.
"It gave me the opportunity to spend more time with him. I have happy memories of him being with the other children."
But in November 2017 then came the devastating news that Cian's cancer had returned.
Two months later, surrounded by family, Cian sadly died.
Richard said that towards the end of Cian's journey, his son started asking questions like 'why could they make me better before, but they can't make me better now?'
"Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be," he added.
But Cian's bravery and his outlook on life are far from being forgotten.
Cian meant so much to the community that a play area at his former primary school has been created.
'Cian's Playground' was unveiled at Llanharan Primary School this month and was opened by his parents Richard and Lorraine together with Cian's brother Dylan and sister Bethany.
Richard, said it was an "emotional" time for the family as they approach the anniversary of his death.
"January signifies a lot of the anniversaries - we are reminded of the time he first fell ill, which was devastating, and the anniversary of when he actually relapsed a few years later," he said.
"About this time is actually taken back to bad memories, so having something positive may dampen some of those bad memories.
"When next November comes around we can mark this as one of the ways we can keep Cian in our hearts."
The company that helped to design the play area is owned by the father of Cian’s friend, who also helped to design Cian's coffin when he passed away.
A large sign has also been put in the area that even features some of his handwriting.
“All of the images were chosen by the family and by Cian’s friends," added Richard.
"There’s a penguin which was his favourite animal, an orange ribbon for his favourite colour, the Cardiff City logo and also the WWE logo as he loved wrestling.
"His friends also chose the stars and the hills. The one thing we did put forward was it would be nice to have something personal on there.
"We had birthday cards that he had written to different members of the family so we took handwriting from the card.
"It's nice for us to be able to remember him, but it's lovely when other people remember him.
"The people of Llanharan really took Cian into their hearts."
Richard said the school has done lots of things to remember Cian over the years and the local rugby club usually host a festival in his honour.
But events like this have had to be cancelled this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, so being able to have something to honour Cian in amongst all the uncertainty of this year has been something to hold onto.
The family had known for a couple of years the school wanted to plan something, and they are delighted that Cian has been honoured.
"It's amazing because it means he's still a part of the school," added Richard.
"All three children went to the school and it is a big part of our lives. It keeps a connection with the school now more than ever.
"When Cian fell ill the school and the council did lots to make sure they were ready for him when he came back – like installing a disabled lift and arranging funding for one-to-one support to look after him.
"When Cian was introduced to the lady from the council who arranged the lift, he gave her a massive hug. No one told him to – he just did it.
"He was incredibly loving, and he definitely liked giving hugs."
That sentiment was echoed by school governor Geraint Hopkins, who is also a local councillor at Rhondda Cynon Taf Council.
He said: "Cian’s was such a happy, gentle and caring young boy, and his tragic passing had an enormous effect on everyone, not just at the school, but also across the wider community of Llanharan.
“The support shown to Cian and his family throughout their difficult journey has been truly fantastic and, as part of that, it has been an ambition of everyone at Llanharan Primary School to bring forward this memorial and we have worked closely with his family to deliver this beautiful playground."
As well as the playground, Richard has also kept his son's memory alive by raising money for Velindre Cancer Centre - where Cian also received treatment at.
Richard said the team were "absolutely fantastic" when it came to treating Cian, but he wanted to raise some funds in the hope it will help to make it a bit more comfortable for other children who have to visit for treatment.