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High five as Zac Oliver celebrates his birthday

By Dominic Robertson | Telford | Broseley | Published:

After a year of trials and tears there there was joy for Zac Oliver and his family as the youngster celebrated his fifth birthday today.

Zac with birthday presents

Waking up to a kitchen table covered in cards and presents, the youngster was able to unwrap his favourite dinosaur themed gifts this morning before heading off for a day at school – like any other normal five-year-old.

In a video posted on the Facebook page set up to support his battle against a rare form of leukaemia, Zac could be seen ripping the wrapping paper off a pair of dinosaur trousers before shouting "my favourite".

Zac's mother, Hannah Oliver-Willets, said he had received 37 cards and five presents through the post.

She said it had been a wonderful morning, and a joy to celebrate after a year of treatment and worry.

She said: "It was fantastic, it was just lovely, and lovely that he was able to go to school afterwards, just like normal, in his school uniform walking to school. It is routine. We have got our life back nearly."

Zac Oliver has celebrated his fifth birthday

The birthday celebrations did not mean a full break from the tests and treatment that have been commonplace in Zac's life for the past 12 months, with a visit from a nurse before the birthday fun.

Hannah said: "We had the nurse round this morning, it is still very much in our lives but not half as much."

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Hannah said there had been a huge relief and enjoyment for the family to be able to mark Zac's birthday.

She said: "I didn't want to think about it too deeply because I wanted it to be a very positive experience rather than me reminding myself that back in May last year we did not know we would be celebrating. So I've been really trying not to have those thoughts any more because it puts you in a really dark place."

Obsessed

Most of Zac's gifts have been dinosaur related, with the youngster crazy about the prehistoric creatures.

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Hannah said: "He is obsessed with these dinosaur eggs you put in water and the dinosaurs grow out of them and we have got a bucket in the kitchen with about five of them in there. He had another one of those so he's taken that to school with him."

Zac's story has been embraced by the people of Shropshire and the rest of the country.

He underwent Car–T therapy at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia earlier this year after an incredible £500,000 public fundraising campaign, is currently in remission from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.

Last week he started properly at school for the first time after declaring that the treatment had been a success and that he was cancer free.

Hannah said one of the most pleasing things since his return from America has been the return of Zac's appetite.

She said: "He is enjoying his food, and food is quite a big part of people's lives. you sit down with children at school for lunch or you go out for a meal with people and it is a treat, but for him for the last year it has not been a treat.

"It is just so joyous to watch him eat because I genuinely thought he was not going to enjoy food again."

Zac will return to Philadelphia at the end of April for another bone marrow biopsy to see if he remains in remission, and then at three-monthly intervals for the next year.

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